In March, I took part in a writing promotional challenge called Love at First Bite in which the goal was to describe when the hero and heroine in one of my stories first met.
I chose Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul as my featured story for this challenge. If you’ve read the book, you will recall the story’s hero is Colonel Fitzwilliam and the heroine is Lady Harriette Middleton. The latter was introduced in the first book in my Pride and Prejudice Untold Series, To Have His Cake (and Eat it Too).
In THHC, Lady Harriette was indeed infatuated with Fitzwilliam – Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The colonel’s journey to the altar with her ladyship took quite a bit of effort on his part. In other words, theirs was not love at first sight.
Here’s a snippet from What He Would Not Do which features the colonel declaring his intention toward Lady Harriette:
Amidst the still of the night, he entered the room without even a light tap at the door. He espied her as she rested on her bed, her long tresses flowing across the bed covers and an opened book at her side. She had obviously fallen asleep whilst awaiting the arrival of her clandestine visitor. He had seen many beautiful women thus. None compared to the vision before him.
He approached her bedside and admired her a few moments longer before leaning forward and placing his hand gently upon her shoulder.
She stirred. The pleasant smile on her face quickly faded as she realised it was not the Fitzwilliam she had invited to her apartment. She sat up immediately.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam! What on earth are you doing in my room?”
He showed her the note. “Am I not invited?”
“You know very well that I intended that note for your cousin! How did it come into your possession?”
“He handed it to me. He IS married, you know. Why would he assume that you intended the note for him?”
“That would be unfortunate, seeing as I have a written invitation to be here. But, do not worry; I shall not divulge your little scheme.”
“What is it that you want of me?”
“I am here to put an end to your trifling affection for Darcy. You, young lady, have been playing a dangerous game. I mean for you to stop.”
She was about to protest further. He silenced her by placing his finger upon her lips.
“Can you even imagine the damage that might have been caused had this note fallen into the wrong hands?
“You are an incredibly beautiful young woman. Why would you even consider throwing yourself away for something that will never be? Even if you could persuade him to join you in your bed, which I daresay there is little to no possibility of that occurring, you can never hope to have more than a fleeting romance at best. He will never leave his wife. She means everything to him.”
“She does not deserve him! She is not his equal, and I do not believe she loves him!”
“That is not for you to say. His heart belongs to her. Do you imagine yourself to be in love with him or is it simply the challenge of wanting something you can never have … your having never been denied anything before?”
She gave no answer.
At that moment, they heard the sounds of someone attempting to gain entry into the room. Very astutely, Richard had remembered to lock the door when he entered, thereby thwarting the intentions of the outsider. The unmistakable sound of receding footsteps signalled the person’s departure down the hall.
Still sitting on the bed beside her, Richard continued. “You and I are so much alike, my dear Harriette. You are passionate, adventurous, and defiant. You are my equal in every way and everything I would wish for in a lover.
“I am hereby putting you on notice,” he said, as he leaned closer towards her, “I intend to court you,” he whispered softly in her ear, sending pleasurable sensations of fright along her spine. “To win your heart,” he murmured, as he gently trailed his fingertips along the décolletage of her nightgown, drew tiny circles about her taut nipples, and halted his path near the centre of her bosom. “To marry you,” he pledged as he kissed her lips, tenderly at first, slowly increasing the smooth pressure, second by second, till only her soft moans were able to recall him to the surroundings.
This brings me back to the Love at First Bite challenge. As a Jane Austen Fan Fiction writer, I am always imagining alternate first meetings for Darcy and Elizabeth. Why not do the same for Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Harriette? The result of my musings follows. Enjoy!
What if this is not infatuation?
The second son of an earl, with every material advantage the heart of mortal man could wish for, the sole exception being a fortune of his own, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was no stranger to the flesh. Women naturally flocked to him—wealthy women who expected nothing of him other than the promise of a clandestine assignation.
Women who gave as good as they received in bed. Women who never asked questions about where he was going or where he had been.
One of sense and education, thoroughly versed in the ways of the world, Richard was just the man for the job.
Women pursued him. Women wanted him. Women adored him.
Women being the operative word.
Not that the stunning creature standing opposite him on the dance floor was not a woman in body as well as in spirit.
Lady Harriette Middleton. This was her coming-out ball. Men, young and old, were vying for her attention all night.
The colonel’s own efforts were a testament to that. He had practically stood in line for a chance to pencil in his name on her dance card.
He who waited for no woman.
What else could he do? Never had he met anyone like her. He was sure that if he traveled to the ends of the earth, the memory of her would accompany him every step of the way.
As their long-awaited dance brought them in and out of each other’s arms, it was all Richard could do not to hold her a moment or two longer when he could and long for her during those agonizing seconds they were apart.
Beware. One does not trifle with the only daughter of a peer.
Cautioning words rang out even louder when he encountered Lady Harriette alone on the balcony. The ever-constant moon high in the night’s sky had but one purpose that evening–to dazzle its brilliant light on her.
Captured by the moment’s serenity, Lady Harriette stared out in the distance, the hum of the musicians and gaiety of society’s elite seemingly miles and miles away.
Dare he wish the young lady’s private thoughts were of him?
Beware, he told himself again as he approached her with his hand poised in midair, reaching out to touch her bare shoulder.
Beware, his heart screamed the very instant she spun around, and instead of touching her shoulder, he caressed her chin.
There are lines – so many lines.
There was the line between lust and love, love and infatuation, and the dangerous line between decorum and impropriety upon which he was treading.
There was the thin line between liking and loving, and most daunting of all for a man like him, the inexplicable line between wanting and needing.
He had been crossing lines all his life. Why would that night be any different?
What if this was not lust? What if this was not infatuation? Or merely liking? Or merely wanting?
What else could it be?
Only fools fall in love.
They were standing much too close to each other. The sensational warmth of their bodies inviting—the many reasons for him not to be alone with her crept into Richard’s mind.
Her striking beauty. Her light and pleasing figure. Her long, lush lashes. Her long, slender neckline. The delightful swells of her décolletage.
Beware. Only fools fall in love.
Closing her eyes, she swept her tongue about her parted lips–beckoning him to do likewise.
If he followed his foolish heart to where he feared it might lead him, life as he knew it – that of a devil may care aristocrat with scarcely a care – would never be the same.
There is something to be said about change, is there not?
Thus resolved, he moistened his lips, closed his eyes, and leaned in.
Intrigued? If yes, I invite you to comment for a chance to win an eBook edition or audiobook edition of Lady Harriette plus a $5 Amazon gift card. Please note the gift card applies to Amazon.com only.
One winner will be selected.
The giveaway contest ends Tuesday, May 5, 2020.
Just in case you’re on the fence about a P&P variation that centers on someone other than Darcy and Elizabeth, check out a snippet of this 5-star review of the story from Austenprose.
– An absorbing page turner
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2014
Starting with the third book in any series is certainly a challenge. One feels rather late to the party when one has missed out on major events and character development in two previous novels, so why would I attempt it? Add to the fact that they were Pride and Prejudice “what if” stories changing the plot of Jane Austen’s classic tale, and the problems intensify. What could possibly tempt me to move beyond my prejudices and give, Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul, a chance? The plot appeared to be focused on the married life of Colonel Fitzwilliam and his new bride Lady Harriet Middleton. His cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy is married to Elizabeth Bennet already too? What? No courtship? Where was this going? I was intrigued.
The book’s description and first few chapters truly peaked my curiosity. Lady Harriette was a beautiful young heiress twelve years younger than her husband, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, the second son of an earl with no fortune. How had he snagged HER, and what did the families think of this misalliance? We learn that he was a rake with a long standing history of dalliance. I wondered if he had married for love or for money? The elephant in the room was how he will he ever keep his privileged and spoiled bride happy? Pressure mounts on Fitzwilliam after he discovers the ancestral property is near bankruptcy. Trying to keep this startling fact from his wife and family, while he and Darcy attempt to catch the thief, seemed wise, but later backfires. Even close friends Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, whose happy life at Pemberley appeared untouchable, are faced with a ghost from the past when a young woman working as a housemaid at the Fitzwilliam estate has a painful connection to both Darcy and Fitzwilliam. Why is she there? Blackmail, or the evil workings of a disgruntled relative? The possibilities for conflict were mounting with every chapter.Only a creative and skilled writer could truly pull all of these conflicts and challenges together. Author P. O. Dixon, known for her Pride and Prejudice variations, succeeded triumphantly.
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