What if Elizabeth never loved Darcy? Excerpt of The Secrets of Pemberley

What if Elizabeth never loved Darcy? Excerpt of The Secrets of Pemberley

It’s November, and among many other things, that means National Novel Writing Month to me. NaNo or NaNoWriMo, as it’s shortened to, is a contest writers can have with themselves. The goal is to write a novel, defined as 50,000 words, in a month. Anyone can join, it’s free, and there’s no real prize aside from an insane sense of accomplishment.

Considering my choices for NaNo and looking through my unfinished projects, I really felt drawn to a short story I wrote four years ago. I added a few thousand words to it last year in an attempt to expand it to a novella. Inspiration waned, and I was soon struck by another piece. This time, my mind fired with possibilities. I won’t reveal them all, yet, but this was the opening premise, suggested by another, from four years ago: What if Elizabeth Bennet had been forced to marry Darcy but never fell in love with him?

Many of my favorite stories to read and write are Forced Marriage Scenarios (FMS) wherein Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to marry to rescue her reputation, usually from an imagined compromise. The person who gave this prompt stated, usually, in these stories some wiser head tells Darcy or Elizabeth that they’ll eventually fall in love and all will be well. But what if it didn’t?

Skeptical of anything that could separate our dear couple (ODC), I questioned where the story arc was and also pointed out how difficult it would be to write a Regency story that spanned an entire marriage whereas a modern tale requires no reason to stay married if not in love.

The gnawing question of “what if?” wouldn’t leave me alone and, in a haze of PMS and with a jar of Nutella at my side, I wrote a piece called “You Must Allow Me to Tell You.” It still shocks me to this day. I cried while writing it, I still cry when I read it, and most of the comments I received online involved tears.

Below is the original opening scene. Now, it comes somewhere in the middle. Be forewarned, there is a character death, but I do promise a happily ever after for Darcy and Elizabeth.

April 4, 1837

Fitzwilliam Darcy took an unsteady step and peered at the marker before him as he shaded his eyes. The sunlight felt harsh and pained his head, due to more than the effects of near-constant inebriation over the last three days. All light had left his world, and he could not account for the fact that the sun could shine at all.  It should not. Once again, he was reminded how useless he was, how little he could control and order things. He who liked to have his own way perhaps more than any other man he had ever known. Certainly more than any other man she had ever known, which she hesitated not to tell him so recently.

It was just another argument. One of many over the last five and twenty years of marriage and as usual, he was too selfish to hear her hurt and pain. How was he to know it would be the last time he ever saw her beautiful face? He now knew he could never forget the turn of her countenance, her eyes filled with unshed tears, disappointment, and regret. The last words spoken from the most perfect mouth that ever existed were, “I cannot speak on this at present. I am leaving for a walk, Fitzwilliam.”

Elizabeth Darcy had delighted in Pemberley’s paths and often took long walks. From the first moment, she saw the estate and grounds it was evident she would enjoy them immensely. Remaining outside for three hours, there was little cause for concern. That she chose to walk instead of enjoying afternoon tea with Darcy rankled him, and he hid in his study. He would not seek her out, this time. When three hours turned to six, and the mistress of the house still had not returned, the servants became restless. It was no secret she was their favourite and no secret she was an exemplary mistress. Despite her humble origins, she managed the estate with more grace, generosity, and good sense than the ladies in most of London’s oldest families. Mrs. Bennet had taught her to be an excellent hostess, and Mr. Bennet taught her sense and wisdom. Darcy knew that now, but learning to value her relations came too late in their marriage to make a difference.

Elizabeth never returned of her own will. He found her eight hours later, as daylight slipped to evening, on her favourite footpath.There had been excessive amounts of rain that washed the road away some, leaving the occasional unexpected rock. Had she been walking she would have seen them, but Darcy surmised she must have been running. She clearly tripped over one rock and as she fell, struck her head on another larger one. The first thing he saw after finding her on the ground was her lifeless eyes. Her mesmerising eyes that always held so much emotion, all the light snuffed out. He had done this. He had driven her to vexation, pushed her to need the exercise in what she must have already viewed as more a prison sentence than a life worth living. Had she felt pain? Had she suffered? He held her stiff and cold body as he attempted to choke back sobs. He was confident it was the last time he would feel anything again.

His mind came back to the present, Darcy raked his hands through his now greying curls and shook his head. He cast one long glance at the marker as he was uncertain he could ever look upon again and read it:

Elizabeth Darcy

1792-1837

Beloved wife and mother.

 

What.Did.I.Just.Do????? How can I promise an HEA after killing Elizabeth? You’ll just have to trust me. Look for THE SECRETS OF PEMBERLEY to release in February 2018.

Let me know what you think of this excerpt and if you’re curious or terrified to read the full novel! And please let me know if you read this short story when it originally posted. I think you’ll be amazed at how this extended version turns out!

 

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60 Responses to What if Elizabeth never loved Darcy? Excerpt of The Secrets of Pemberley

  1. I read the short story so I think I have an idea how you might get to a HEA. The angst meter was off the charts dor this story. Not sure my heart will take a full story at that level.

  2. Had to read it twice because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. About had a heart attack. Good to know it was a dream. Granted having two head strong individuals could produce such a scene. However it shows his insecurities and his unyielding live for her.

  3. Eek! Definitely intriguing… I hoping this is a bad dream or a premonition Darcy has as a life in the future if he didn’t change his ways! Can’t wait to find out what happens and what the outcome is!

  4. This is a dream sequence… like on Dallas… right??? Please say yes!!! Thanks for the warning… I got a grip on myself before I read it. I held myself in check and did not cry. Oh how I wanted to… but I refused to believe it. OMG!!!

  5. I read this short story at Dwiggie. I enjoyed it very much. I will definitely purchase the longer, novel length version of this story.

    • Happy to hear another person who has read the short story and wants more! I have now made it past The Very Bad Dream (TM) while writing/editing and I hope you will enjoy the new take on it!

  6. I remember reading the original of this. Can’t say I loved it… However, if you’re going to rework it to a true HEA, then I’m in. Thanks!

  7. What an horrible thought was the first that entered my mind… but as curiosity killed the cat, I had to read it.
    Surprisingly enough, I did not hate it at all. I actually found it to be rather emotional and I like to be moved 😉
    I also like the darker and unpredictable variations so this has a lot of promise to it as I have no idea how you will manage it 🙂
    Will definitely buy it when it is released, as you have promised an ODC HEA. That is vital too me, I have only hated one of the around 700 P&P variations I have read, where Darcy humiliated Lizzy by proposing to Emma Woodhouse after courting Lizzy. I deleted that from my kindle and sincerely regret reading it…
    This I found intriguing though and will be looking forward to finding out how you resolve this conundrum.

    • I agree, I love to have my emotions moved when I read and I also like to do the unexpected when I write. I try to mix something familiar (a lot of people are guessing this is a bad dream) with something unexpected. I’ll confirm it’s definitely a dream but there are still other twists which support this. I’ve learned to not lead readers too far off familiar ground–such as Darcy with Emma???!!! NOOOO. Darcy and Elizabeth HEA all the way or there’s no point in reading it! I hope you enjoy my finished product!

  8. I certainly hope this is a bad dream, as some of the stories, as I cannot imagine reading a HEA for anyone other than Darcy with Elizabeth, one in which he sees the error of his ways. Well, I did read the one with a marriage between Mr. Collins and Elizabeth in which she had a child, but fortunately he died early. Darcy had a tendency to run away. I think I have read another story that goes through a sad scenario in which they did not marry in dreams and then a happier story that resulted from it. It is certainly interesting sounding, but I do not believe I can bear it if the HEA is with someone else after Darcy spaces out on drugs and booze (there is a story like that that is one of my most disliked).

    • Oh, I absolutely promise a HEA for Darcy and Elizabeth TOGETHER. I can tolerate stories with a first marriage, even a happy/content one but tearing them up forever after they find one another? I could NEVER do that. And ewww, Darcy spaced out on drugs and booze and then ending up with someone else? Nope, not for me!

  9. No, no, no…a thousand times no! Unless it is a HEA for both Elizabeth and Darcy, I will not be reading this story. Sorry. There are just some premises I won’t touch…like Elizabeth marrying Wickham first!

    • It is definitely an HEA for Darcy and Elizabeth–together, alive, and incandescently happy. You’ll have to trust that I’m being an evil author and provoking you with a certain excerpt.

      FWIW, I also don’t like Elizabeth marrying Wickham first. I think I can almost vow to never do that under any circumstance. I don’t want to say never but I definitely have no current plans to use that trope. I have read a few though and it’s been bearable but not my cup of tea. But breaking up Darcy and Elizabeth’s HEA? NO. NEVER NEVER NEVER.

  10. I have to read it now! I couldn’t go on knowing that this story is out there in the world and I’m thinking ill of it. LOL You promise HEA, I’m there!It has to be a long winding road to get to this!

  11. Rose,

    Do my eyes deceived me or have I read correctly that Lizzy married Darcy yet never fell in love with him???

    Lived under the same roof as him,had children with him,shared the responsibility of Pemberley,grew old beside him,yet…I can hardly bring myself to say it,never grew to see his fine qualities,or appreciated his kindness,his generosity or his absolute love for her???

    I can’t envision such an overwhelmingly sad scenario and honestly don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to read a story centred around this premise…….

    Like Ceri stated,I see them very much in love,aware of the other’s faults,but keen to make a marriage of true hearts and minds into a lifelong partnership,full of the usual ups and downs,but buffeted by the strong love and mutual respect they hold for each other.

    • Recall you’re reading it from Darcy’s perspective and he’s been wrong before and is currently grieving. Could I really do that to him?! And don’t forget a forced marriage is a different starting point than the openness they finally share at the end of P&P. In the short story, he does find out she loved him but she misread him and thought he didn’t need the words. The story is about the opportunity to say the most important things to your loved ones before it’s too late.

      In the context of a longer novel, it’s not so overwhelmingly sad but it is a little angsty. The above scene is a nightmare not reality but lurks in Darcy’s mind as a scenario to avoid. If you’ve enjoyed other angsty works, I think you would enjoy this one as well.

      • Rose,
        Given your explanation of the facts above,coupled with your guarantee that there is an HEA for ODC,then I would most certainly be happy to venture forth and read this angst filled story!

    • This version will be a little different than the original. I give Darcy a backstory for his actions and feelings. If you recall, the original had a bit of an open ending, Darcy wasn’t sure if he was in Heaven or had just been a dream. This time there’s a definitive answer to that.

  12. I read the excerpt but don’t recall the original short story. I hope it’s a nightmare and causes both Darcy and Elizabeth to come to their senses creating their HEA!! Looking forward to the release!

    • The short story left the ending open for interpretation: either a nightmare or a second chance in Heaven. In the novel, it is definitely a nightmare and I think the HEA will be well worth it.

  13. I did not read the original short story. Oh, tell me this didn’t happen and, yes, I want to read the book. I, too, like FMS. I hope it was not a 25 yr of unhappiness for Elizabeth, but Darcy must be so tormented as am I.

    • Well, I did give a hint that it happens in the middle of the book so it’s definitely not the ending. 25 years of unhappiness would be a dreadful book. Actually, even 25 years of happiness would be. In general, I’m not a fan of doing such a long span of time. I’m glad you’re interested!

  14. Yes, I have read this before, a few times, in fact. I never felt it was an unhappy marriage, just one of those moments when they disagreed with their partner and, unfortunately, they didn’t get a chance to work things out. I, too, had the thought the only way it could be a happy ending was for it to be a really bad dream and gives Darcy his “ah ha” moment. And, hopefully, gives Elizabeth clarity on how stubborn she is probably being. Good luck with the book!

    • Yay! I’m glad you liked the original and have read it a few times! You’re correct. I didn’t intend for it to be an unhappy marriage although that was his impression upon her death. The real issue in the short story is that they didn’t verbally express their feelings which will be key in the longer version as well. In the short story I left it a bit open-ended but this time it will definitely be a dream. As for Elizabeth–I am writing from Darcy’s point of view only! My first time doing that so we’re all left in the dark about what’s going on with her.

      • Yeah, lack of open (and loving) communication is the bane of our relationships. We all do it. Please don’t make it so bad that we want to smack them upside the head because they won’t share with each other. Wish I could write, but my gift is proofreading instead. So if you need a final proofreader, please feel free to contact me. laddzhorse at gmail dot com Congratulations! 🙂

  15. Oh, no! I just finished watching “The Day We Said Goodbye to Dianna, Princess of Wales” on TV and now I’ve read your excerpt. I don’t think I’ll be OK again for a loooong time. Incredibly sad right now. Must go and find something to do to lift my spirits!

  16. Wow, I am shocked and really would like to know how this could end with a HEA. The only thing I can think of is if they are reunited after death. Really interested to see how this one ends.

    • In the short story, I wanted to give two possible endings for the reader to interpret at will. One was reuniting after death. For the longer story, I’m going with it’s a vivid nightmare. I hope you’ll enjoy!

  17. It was beautifully written, Rose. But so so heartbreaking. 🙁 I havent read it before and with Elizabeth’s death a fact, I am not sure I can take it. 🙁 Unless it was just a bad dream. Curious to what you will do to fix that.

    • Daniela, the short story is still online at a few places if you’re interested in reading.

      Spoiler:

      the reader gets to choose if it was a nightmare or if they’re runited after death.

      For the novel, it is only a vivid nightmare. What do you think sparked it and what do you think he will do afterward? I promise an HEA!

  18. That’s quite the excerpt! Will there be magic? That’s my only guess as to how you could fix this 🙂

  19. I read the story online. It’s an interesting idea for a story but the concept is too sad for me to want to explore it because I am a huge wimp! Even her not loving him for a few months is hard for me to enjoy, particularly as I felt after reading P&P that they would be a very close couple, with the potential to be friends and confidants in addition to being husband and wife.

    • I agree about that potential in P&P which I think is what makes the short story so tragic. They loved each other and thought the other knew but just didn’t share it. Sadly, some couples love one another but are not very close. The crux of the novel version of this story is learning to say the things we sometimes want left unsaid. This Darcy has a shocking backstory that explains a lot and the above scene is just a nightmare. I think on the whole, the novel will feel far less sad than the short story did.

  20. Oh no! Good heavens Rose how could you? No I haven’t seen this before. To be honest I can’t see how you can get to a happy ending and I’m not sure I could read about 25 years of unhappy marriage followed by Elizabeth’s death even though I do usually enjoy FMS.
    However I will reserve judgment for now.

    • Oh, I do promise a wonderful HEA that makes the heartache worth it. The short story glossed over the marriage and dealt with Darcy’s reaction and finally finding out the truth that she did love him but he knew it too late. In the end, he got a second chance and I left it to the reader to decide if it was a dream or Heaven. The novel version is quite different but the theme of saying things before it’s too late is the same.

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