As I promised in a FB post last week, I have an excerpt for you today. I have referenced this work in previous blog articles and it is one which has me particularly excited. Some of my past works have taken the world of Pride and Prejudice and turned it on its head, but I don’t think I’ve ever added or changed so many characters or changed the setting to quite the degree I have this time, with the possible exception of the Courage Always Rises series.
So let us set the stage. The basis for this adaptation is to place the characters of our beloved work into a situation similar to that which existed in Shakespeare’s tragic play, Romeo and Juliet, with our favorite couple in the primary roles. Now, for those who have read the play, this is not a rewrite of it. The initial circumstances are similar, but not identical. England of the 1800s is more tamed than the collection of city states which existed in Italy in the 1500s, and thus, open warfare between two families or their servants would not have been tolerated. Having said that, relations between the Darcys and the Bennets, while they do not descend to open strife, is not good, as they dislike and distrust each other.
One major change you might miss in a short excerpt is that Mr. Bennet is Lord Henry Bennet, Baron of Arundel, making the family noble and the Darcys’ social superiors. Of course the Darcys, though they are the same gentle family as in the original (with one notable addition), still do have their connection to the Fitzwilliam family and are no slouches in the social sphere themselves. Add a few headstrong characters and tense situations, not to mention Bingley’s reprehensible interest in one of the daughters of the Darcys’ mortal enemies, all of which increase the tension between the families, and you have a gap that two young lovers from opposite sides will find difficult to bridge. But this is our favorite couple—beating the odds is what they do!
One more point to make before we get to the excerpt: this is not a tragedy. I give you my word that I have harmed no Elizabeth Bennets or Fitzwilliam Darcys in the writing of this book!
“I see you continue to stand about in this stupid manner,” said a gentlemen of the neighborhood by the name of Fordham, when the first sets had completed. Fordham laughed at his own jest. “I understand your reticence, but surely you could set it aside for tonight. There are no ladies in attendance tonight who are desperate to attach themselves to you.”
“There are few pastimes I detest more than dancing,” responded Darcy. Fordham was a good sort, but Darcy was not close to him, and he wished the man would retreat and leave him be.
“I cannot understand why,” said Fordham. “Are there not many uncommonly pretty young ladies in attendance tonight? Take the Bennets, for example.”
Darcy did not dignify Fordham’s words with a response, though he was forced to agree with him in general. Though Darcy had no care for the Bennet family, the five daughters were exceptionally pretty, from the first to the last. The eldest, who had caught Bingley’s attention, was one of the most beautiful women Darcy had ever laid eyes on.
“Can you deny it?”
Pulled from his thoughts, Darcy shrugged. “I suppose you are correct, though I have no care for them.”
“Ah, yes, the infamous feud between the Bennets and the Darcys,” replied Fordham with a smirk. “Still, would a man not foreswear even an enmity of longstanding to gain the regard of such an exquisite creature as Miss Elizabeth?”
Darcy’s eyes found the second eldest Bennet in response to his friend’s words, though he refused to respond. Fordham, unfortunately, needed no encouragement.
“And Miss Mary, though of an overly religious bent, is not devoid of beauty. Even Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia, though still young, are quite acceptable, though I find Miss Lydia a little too calculating for my tastes. And then there is Miss Jane Bennet.”
Fordham paused for a moment, looking back and forth between Darcy and the eldest Bennet—not to mention Bingley, who stood close to her side. As Darcy might have predicted in advance, his next words were concerning the gentleman.
“Miss Bennet is a beautiful lady, but I find myself interested in your friend, for it appears dear Bingley has slipped his leash. Unless I am mistaken, I suspect you are not happy about it either.”
The full force of his glare Darcy turned on Fordham, which the man noted in an instant. Darcy’s displeasure had been known to quell more courageous tongues than that owned by his friend, but in this instance, he chuckled and shook his head.
“Do not mistake me, Darcy,” said Fordham, still laughing to himself. “Bingley is a good man, but he has been attached to your coattails for at least these past four or five years. This sudden attention to the eldest Bennet daughter cannot be to your liking.”
“Bingley may do as he pleases,” was Darcy’s short reply. “I neither direct him, nor give my approval to his amorous interests. It would be best if you do not say such things openly where others might overhear, for I would not have anyone misled by jests which are untrue and in poor taste.”
“Your friendship is well known in the neighborhood, Darcy. It is this sudden distance between you which will excite the interest of the gossips, and his attachment to the eldest Bennet, which, I might add, has escaped the notice of us all, will only throw fuel on the fire.”
“As I said,” replied Darcy with a shrug, “Bingley may do as he pleases. There is nothing I, or anyone else can do to turn him from his course if he decides he wishes to pay her his addresses.”
“Even his sister?”
It was difficult, but somehow Darcy managed to avoid grimacing at the mention of the woman. The eldest Bingley sibling, Louisa, had married a man by the name of Hurst two years before, and had recently produced an heir for her husband. Given that state of affairs, Darcy doubted she would be seen in the district until at least the summer, though Bingley’s mother had recently returned from Norfolk where she had been assisting her daughter. The younger sister, however, was an entirely different matter.
Caroline Bingley was a tall, willowy woman, not ill-favored, but more striking than beautiful. As the Bingleys were quite wealthy, she was also possessed of a handsome dowry, though the family’s lingering connection to trade—Bingley’s grandfather had purchased Netherfield, their estate—was still new enough to produce an unwelcome stench to many in society. Miss Bingley, however, had decided from an early age that she was the perfect future mistress of Pemberley and was not subtle in the business of being noticed by Pemberley’s heir. There was no intention on Darcy’s part of ever making her an offer, a truth he had shared with his friend, but still she persisted. Even now, when she was dancing with a Mr. Smallwood, her eyes often sought Darcy’s form, her gaze hungry and predatory.
“Though I would imagine Miss Bingley is not pleased with her brother,” said Darcy at length, “she has never had as much influence over him as she believes. And her displeasure is all because she thinks her brother’s defection will make it more difficult to achieve her designs.”
Darcy turned a scowl on Fordham, but though he would usually be cowed, the man possessed the temerity to laugh. “I believe I have my answer, my friend. While Miss Bingley possesses a handsome dowry, you do not require it, and I believe its benefits are offset by certain . . . disadvantages of the lady’s temper.”
Try as he might, Darcy could not find it within him to disagree. “I cannot say you are incorrect. It is an evil I have endured to maintain Bingley’s friendship.”
“That is understandable. If Bingley is to join his fate to that family’s however, you may cut the woman with no consequences.” Fordham paused, full of mirth yet again. “Unless you are considering paying her the highest of compliments.”
“Given what I have just said about her?”
Fordham laugh. “I suppose not. It is likely for the best, for I doubt your father would approve of such a connection, regardless—he married the daughter of an earl, as I recall.”
“Yes,” he did,” replied Darcy. “But he married her for affection, not because of her status.”
“I am sure her status did not hurt.”
The sound of feminine laughter reached their ears, and they turned as one, noticing that Lady Bennet was holding court with some of the other women of the neighborhood. With her were most of the principal gentlemen’s wives, none of whom were her equal in society, though Lady Charlotte Lucas, the daughter of an earl and betrothed to Darcy’s cousin was present that evening. The woman had never been one to modulate her voice, and as such, her words floated through the air, reaching Darcy’s ears with little trouble.
“My Jane is the most beautiful girl in the room, is she not? I am not surprised she has captured the attention of a man as handsome and amiable as Mr. Bingley. Lord Arundel and I would have preferred our daughter to favor a gentleman of our stature, but it seems her heart has been captured, so there is nothing to be done.”
With a scowl, Darcy turned away, an action noted by his companion. “It is difficult to blame them for espousing such wishes, Darcy. There are many their like in society.”
“Well do I know it,” replied Darcy, hoping his shortness of tone would induce Fordham to leave. When he did not, Darcy added: “You did not hear her at the last assembly, crowing to all her cronies of how her daughter would catch Lord Winchester.”
Fordham laughed and exclaimed: “I do not know what you saw, Darcy, but in my view, she had already captured Lord Winchester, and I do not blame the woman for an instant for throwing him back. Though he is a viscount and a future earl, Winchester is a dullard. I dare say if his valet did not lay his boots out the night before, he would not know which foot goes into which when he rose in the morning.”
Though improper, the remark set Darcy to laughing, for it was nothing more than the truth. “Do you know that she refused him? Given how her mother was speaking, it seemed the announcement of an engagement was inevitable.”
“I do not know if a proposal was ever offered,” replied Fordham. “All I can say is the lady did not appear happy with the man’s attentions. You must own that the family at least allows the daughters to marry where they will—otherwise, Lord Arundel would not have accepted Bingley, nor would he have allowed her to refuse that mewling milksop Winchester.”
Though Darcy nodded, he declined to respond. This lack of response indicated to Fordham he was not in the mood for conversation, for the man excused himself soon thereafter. Darcy wished to be left alone, but it was not to be.
“For your information,” said a voice from behind him, “since you seem to have some interest, Jane did not favor Lord Winchester, nor would my father force her to marry against her inclinations.”
Turning, Darcy noted the presence of the second Bennet daughter. She was standing close behind him, looking at him with suppressed mirth, tinged with asperity. The most diminutive of the Bennet daughters, Miss Elizabeth was also the darkest in coloring, her fine mahogany hair pinned behind her head would reach the middle of her back if unbound. She was neither so beautiful as her elder sister nor ill-favored in any way, but to Darcy’s judgmental eye, there were several imperfections about her face and form, and a satirical look about her, the sight of which provoked him to a painful clenching of his teeth. Her one feature which could be called beautiful—her eyes—were fixed upon him, fire burning in their depths.
“I assure you, Miss Elizabeth, that I do not concern myself with the doings of your family.”
“That is interesting, considering your recent conversation with Mr. Fordham. And to you, I am The Honorable Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Darcy ignored her latter words in favor of focusing on the former. “If you recall, it was Fordham who spoke on the matter—not I.”
The woman before him cocked her head to the side. “It takes two to converse, Mr. Darcy.”
“It does, indeed.”
“Then I suppose you must be repining your friend’s ability to direct his own affairs. Your distance this evening speaks volumes as to your opinion of his interest in my eldest sister, though I wonder that anyone could have any objections to my angelic sister.”
“Bingley may do what he wishes,” said Darcy curtly. “As I told Fordham, I neither direct him, nor am I his nursemaid.”
“Perhaps not, but you certainly wish you were.” The woman gave him a thin smile. “For you cannot approve of a man having an interest in a Bennet, though we are his superiors in society.
“I must own, however,” continued she, not allowing Darcy to insert a comment, “I wonder what you do wish for him. Though I know you would never settle for less than a princess—and you certainly consider it your due—your friend does not have more than two gentlemen in his family history.”
“Then I wonder why you Bennets would wish him to join your family,” replied Darcy. “Is your father not a peer?”
“He is, and he is so conscious of his position that he rarely mentions it,” replied Miss Elizabeth. “Of much more import is my sister’s feelings—my father would never do anything to interfere with that.”
“Then I applaud him,” replied Darcy. “If you think my father is any different, you are mistaken.”
The impish grin with which she fixed him somehow irritated Darcy. “Mr. Bingley is a good man to follow his heart, Mr. Darcy. I hope you can find it within you to be happy for him.”
“Whatever he chooses,” replied Darcy. “I only hope he is not disappointed by his choice. It is unlikely, I think, that your family’s true colors will not be made known to him anon.”
“I should hope he already sees our true colors,” replied Miss Elizabeth.
The she fixed him with a smirk and turned away. But before she had gone more than a few steps, she turned back and glared at him. “As for my mother, know that she also wishes for her daughter’s happiness. She may speak without thinking on occasion, such as on the subject you mentioned. But she would never act in any way other than to ensure her daughters’ happiness.”
There you have it! I hope this has whet your appetite sufficiently. The release date for With Love’s Light Wings is scheduled for December 19, just in time for Christmas. I hope to have the cover hammered out before the end of this month, and I’ll release it on the FB page when completed.
One more note to pass on. I’m collaborating again with Lelia Eye on a collection of short stories to be released in November. They will all be Christmas themed, and, I hope, will be an enjoyable addition to your Christmas preparations. There might even be a guest author with a story or two included! Look for it just before American Thanksgiving!