To celebrate the publication of my first Regency novel, I am giving away one complete set of my Mister Darcy series comedic mystery books —in paperback and signed— to one reader chosen from those who comment on this post. There are 6 books in the contemporary set to be given to U.S. one winner. Deadline to post your comments is this Thursday—November 19—at midnight.
Writing in Regency has been a big step for me—almost like learning a new language. My normal writing voice is one that sounds like a script for a Katherine Hepburn movie; it is cryptic with snappy dialogue. As I created Elizabeth and Darcy’s Regency adventure I felt a bit like Bambi walking on an iced-over lake, could I do this and not fall? Would my Elizabeth Bennet be enough of a lady? Would my Darcy still retain the machismo of his era?
But you have warmed my heart with your delightful responses to my Mister Darcy contemporary series, and I felt I could trust my readers to tell me to get off the ice and go back to what I know best—if I was not Regency material. The wonderful thing about JAFF is that it comes in flavors to please every reading palate. I am so glad you found my contemporary tales to be ‘feel good’ and uplifting. I hope you enjoy my first sojourn into the Regency era as I tag along after our favorite couple.
In the GALLANT VICAR, Darcy and Elizabeth retain the same jousting banter contained in my MISTER DARCY SERIES, but they have now returned to their own time where insults are an art form and reputations the most valued of commodities.
What would happen if Mr. Collins finally snapped and Elizabeth might be the cause of his breakdown? What if he were replaced at the Hunsford parish by a charming, unwed vicar who arrives on the heels of Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy?
Darcy becomes desperate to deconstruct the growing attachment Elizabeth feels for the new vicar. Determined to unearth the truth about the clergyman before Elizabeth is coerced into marriage, Darcy swings into action even as he fears he will appear to be motivated by jealousy. Will Darcy save the day? Will Elizabeth accept his help? And exactly who is the Gallant Vicar?
Excerpt from THE GALLANT VICAR
Elizabeth Bennet’s hair was in disarray and her eyes swollen from holding back tears of frustration. If she were a man she would challenge the knave to a duel, but as it was she must smile politely and bite her tongue. She dabbled at her nose but it continued to sniffle as if it had a mind of its own.
Two light knocks on the parsonage door rousted her from her misery. Standing, she threw back her shoulders, adjusted her plain brown walking gown and waited for the maid to announce the visitor. Whoever it was would most likely be seeking Mr. Collins, although why anyone would want the company or counsel of that silly sycophant pastor was beyond her reasoning.
“Mr. Darcy to see Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” the maid said with a curtsy.
The cause of Elizabeth’s frustration stood in the doorway behind the maid, his hat in his hand, looking bewildered as if he had been carried there by a gust of wind. She locked eyes with Fitzwilliam Darcy and struggled to hide her astonishment. What did the blackguard want with Collins? Was there yet another pot of mischief he could stir?
“Good afternoon, Miss Bennet,” he faltered. “May I come in?”
His expression was impossible to perceive. Amid her confusion at his presence, she worried that perhaps she looked even more pathetic than she imagined. She almost never cried and refused to shed a tear in front of her caller. She blinked to hold back the moisture that filled her fine eyes.
Swallowing her anger, Elizabeth motioned Darcy into the parlor. She was again forced to acknowledge that were he not one of the wealthiest men in England, he was surely the most handsome. She thought it a pity that despite his physical and financial assets, Fitzwilliam Darcy suffered from two incurable diseases: bloated ego and severe pomposity.
Darcy arrived at an awkward time. Except for the maid, Elizabeth was alone in the parsonage—an unfortunate state, for it allowed her visitor to speak his mind. And his mind was not something she wished to explore. Not this day. Not ever. However, she determined to be civil for as long as his stay lasted, provided his stay was short.
Charlotte and Mr. Collins were at Rosings Park for tea and groveling, an event Elizabeth had begged not to attend. She employed the excuse of an unbearable headache to avoid an audience with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the mistress of Rosings, Mr. Collins’s patron, and the most obnoxious woman in Kent.
Mr. Collins’s jaw had rabbited as he attempted to contain his irritation when Elizabeth requested he convey her regrets to Lady Catherine. She imagined he had all but chewed through the inside of his flabby cheeks. The clergyman fussed and fumed in an un-clerical manner, as Elizabeth stood firm against his tantrums. And then she did the unthinkable—it was too late to stop it—she yawned in his face. He sputtered, he muttered, and he stormed away.
Only five days into her visit with her best friend, Charlotte Lucas Collins, and Elizabeth had become numb to Mr. Collin’s theatrics. He was sure to continue his complaints when the couple returned to the parsonage—the thought irritated her for she was not his wife, daughter, or maidservant. And yet by virtue of his being a male relative, in this case her cousin, he assumed it was his birthright to bully her. On the rare occasions when she thought of it, she wondered at the freak of nature that caused her to be related by blood to such a toad of a man. If he were green and slimy he could not have been more repulsive to her.
Elizabeth’s almost-tears began earlier that morning following a visit from Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. A gentleman ever seeking to ingratiate himself, he did, in casual conversation, inform her that Mr. Darcy had proudly recounted his rescue of Charles Bingley, Darcy’s close friend, from the machinations of an unnamed lady of lesser status.
Darcy had deemed this lady to be unworthy to become Mrs. Bingley by virtue of her lack of demonstrated affection for Bingley and her ill-mannered family’s low social standing. The Colonel did not know that the unnamed lady was Elizabeth’s beloved sister, Jane, who shared an intense but unspoken passion for Charles Bingley. Being of a shy nature, Jane kept her feelings cloaked. Their exchange of longing glances did not go unnoticed by Elizabeth.
Jane had fully expected a marriage proposal within the fortnight of the ball, which Bingley held. Instead Mr. Bingley packed up his entourage, including his two irksome sisters, and quit his home of Netherfield without so much as a fare thee well. He left behind a confused and heartbroken young lady. Her pain was something Elizabeth could barely tolerate for her treasured sister. Those who caused Jane Bennet pain would feel the wrath of Elizabeth Bennet, if not now, then someday.
Darcy had proven himself to be the troublemaker who had callously ruined Jane’s life and no doubt the life of his dear friend, Bingley. Elizabeth had only just begun to contain her anger of the morning when he foolishly presented himself at the parsonage in the afternoon.
He took the chair Elizabeth offered him and she sat at the desk. Her caller fidgeted for a few long moments, and then got up and paced about the room.
Darcy’s striking presence filled the small parlor, and his words—although he thought them lofty—hung in the air like dust mites. “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Never had Elizabeth been so perplexed by the actions of a person. His admiration struck her as hypocritical, and the one flaw above all else she could not tolerate was hypocrisy.
She had never knowingly led him to believe she held anything but mild irritation toward him. Was he being sarcastic, or was her sarcasm missing its target? If so she must devote more time to sharpening her rapier tongue.
Her resentment mounted as Darcy persisted in stating his case, oblivious of her feelings. “The relative situation of our families is such that any alliance between us must be regarded as a highly reprehensible connection,” he fumbled, studying her eyes for a reaction.
When she failed to respond, he did not waver in expressing his opinion with regards to the Bennet family and the obstacles they presented, but which he was willing to overlook.
Elizabeth was bemused as Darcy dug a deep verbal trench, and not in the direction he had intended. Panic overtook him for he feared betraying how intensely he desired to make her his own. His words rushed forward in a torrent of ill-conceived insults in support of his offer, not fully what he intended, the thoughts lay just beneath the surface of his proposal and he foolishly could not contain them.
“Indeed, as a rational man, I cannot make sense of my feelings. Almost from the first moments of our acquaintance, I have felt for you a fervent regard that, despite all my efforts, have been for naught. I beg you most passionately to relieve my suffering and become my wife.”
Elizabeth could not be insensible to his feelings despite her intense dislike for the man. Bewilderment fueled the resentment in her heart. Had she just received a proposal of marriage or an insult? Reprehensible! If it were a true proposal given from the heart, then she was about to wound him.
Darcy appeared confident she would clasp her hands in delight and thank him for looking beyond her inferiority and that of the family he would be forced to accept in order to wed her.
She swallowed back a knot of anger. This arrogant paradox of a man had advised Bingley to run from Jane, but now he would allow himself the latitude he denied his friend!
His rich brown eyes were so deep that Elizabeth felt she might tumble into them—if she cared a snit about him. She did not wish to cause him pain by her response and yet a reply was required. The opportunity to let him know she had learned of his cruel and duplicitous character loosened her tongue.
Elizabeth began gently enough, “If I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot—”
Carefully choosing her words so that Darcy would have no doubt as to how his offer had been received, Elizabeth said, “I have never desired your good opinion and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.”
His countenance became such that she could not have envisioned even the pompous Mr. Darcy would assume. He took a step back and teetered as though she had struck him a blow across the face.
Once begun, she finished her refusal, her words of rejection sharply pointed.
Darcy struggled for composure, moving back to the fireplace to gain time for his response. He leaned on the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face. “Can you tell me why you are refusing my offer, with so little endeavor at civility?”
She pinned him with her eyes. “You have just told me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character. Is that not uncivil?”
He appeared to fall deeper into a state of puzzlement as if he had not considered the harshness of his words.
“And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I would like to request the courtesy of knowing why I am being rejected—because I am being rejected—is that not so?”
Pacing her words so that her delivery hit its mark, she replied, “As I said, with so evident a design to offend and insult me, you tell me that you like me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character. Did you sincerely believe I would accept the hand of a man who thinks me so far beneath him? I, sir, should be on a pedestal and not beneath your boot!”
At this point she stood and strode toward him. “I have other reasons and you know I do. You have been the principal, if not the only means of dividing two of the kindest people in my world. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny you have involved both Jane and Mr. Bingley in misery most acute.”
Darcy looked not at all disturbed, but rather as if she was reciting his talents and not his shortcomings. He had the denseness of mind to preen at her accusation.
“Can you deny that you have done it?”
“No. And I am proud to have separated my good friend from your sister. I wish I could be as kind to myself.”
“If this is a proposal of marriage, it is the very worst one ever to have fallen from the lips of a man.”
Please remember to leave a comment before midnight November 19, 2015 to qualify. Only one winner will be drawn from the commenters, and only for the U.S. as the prize is a set of six (6) paperbacks. Sorry… overseas shipping is a bear.
With love & laugher,