I have posed a couple of questions on the Facebook page the past couple of days and alluded to an excerpt in the offing. And here it is, along with the cover reveal! I realized when I was looking for a portion of the book to post that there was only one where I could do so and not reveal a major plot point, and even then, this has been edited to preserve that point. I hope you enjoy it!
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s only desire for the evening was to escape it unscathed. Within moments of entering the assembly hall—a building which Miss Bingley had referred to as quaint several times already—Darcy heard rumors of his income being bandied about the room, rendering his already fragile temper frayed. That his companions were largely enjoying the attention did not escape his notice.
“Were we truly required to attend tonight?” asked Miss Bingley for the fourth time since they had exited the carriage. “The society tonight is certainly not what we would find in London, even at this time of the year.”
“We must make a good impression on local society,” replied Bingley. His cheerfulness in the face of his sister’s incivility was one of his greatest strengths, in Darcy’s opinion. That Darcy agreed with Miss Bingley’s disinclination for the company in no way changed the truth of his friend’s words.
“They seem to be pleasant people,” said Darcy’s cousin. “The dance is lively enough. I am quite pleased to be here tonight.”
His commentary silenced Miss Bingley quite effectively, though Darcy could readily see that she meant to change his mind. But Hurst made some comment at that moment, and though he was a bit of a boor, Darcy was happy to give his attention to Hurst, rather than the man’s sister by marriage. His wife, Louisa, was tolerable, but Miss Caroline Bingley was enough to drive a man to drink.
Within moments of their arrival, one of the local gentlemen—an amiable and slightly silly man, by the name of Sir William Lucas—approached them and began to lead them around the assembly hall, introducing them to the principal families of the neighborhood. He introduced them to the members of his own family first, and then directed them to where a veritable gaggle of women stood, five younger with one elder, whom Darcy was certain were all related. There, he stopped to speak to the six ladies.
“Mrs. Bennet,” said he, addressing the elder woman, “Mr. Bingley has requested an introduction to your family.”
“That is very good of you, sir!” exclaimed the woman. The look she directed at them all spoke to calculation—she was no doubt already scheming to arrange it so that each of the three men were paired up with her offspring. It was a scene Darcy had seen over and over again during his time in society, and he liked it no more now than he had the first time it had happened.
“Gentlemen,” said Sir William, “may I present my nearest neighbors, the Bennets. They are, by seniority, Mrs. Margaret Bennet, Miss Jane Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary, Miss Catherine, and Miss Lydia.”
As one, the ladies curtseyed to the gentlemen, and Darcy was forced to concede they were some of the handsomest young ladies he had ever seen. The eldest, Miss Bennet, was particularly lovely, though her younger sister, Elizabeth, was possessed of dark eyes and even darker hair, and was very agreeable too. Miss Mary did not possess the beauty of her elder sisters, though she was attractive and quiet. Misses Catherine and Lydia would have been far comelier had they not burst into giggles at that moment.
“Mrs. Bennet,” said Sir William, turning to the ladies, “please allow me to introduce the residents of Netherfield Park. First is Mr. Charles Bingley who has taken the lease of the estate as its master. Next to him is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who I understand is a long-time friend.”
“That is correct, Sir William,” said Bingley, his usual eagerness evident in his voice. “Darcy and I have been friends since university, and as Netherfield is the first estate I have leased, he has kindly agreed to assist me in learning what I need to know.”
“That is very kind of you, sir,” said the second eldest Bennet, her eyes flashing with amusement. “And does Mr. Bingley require a great deal of guidance?”
“He does, indeed,” said Bingley with a laugh. “Darcy has been managing his own estate for some years now. I know no one better to be of assistance to me.”
“Then you are to be commended, sir,” said the girl, turning her attention back to Darcy. “I hope you will enjoy your time in our neighborhood.”
“The company of good friends is all I require, Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy found himself saying. “When Bingley and my cousin are present, I am assured of having that.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” said Sir William, taking hold of the conversation again. “May I present the final member of our triumvirate? Please allow me to present the honorable Colonel Anthony Fitzwilliam.”
I realize some of you are likely confused, given the discussions on the FB group. No, I have not lost my mind. I never said he wasn’t a colonel, just that I’ve made a change and he wasn’t in the regulars. I’ll leave you to decipher that, as I’m sure there will be plenty of possible explanations!
The release date is scheduled for February 22nd, and it should be up for pre-order some days in advance. I’ll post to let you know when!