A Prince’s Ransom (Short Story Excerpt)

A Prince’s Ransom (Short Story Excerpt)

I am starting to get my appetite back and am hoping this whole morning sickness thing might be over in a week or two. Please keep your fingers crossed for me on that!

I thought for my blog post I would reach back in time and post an excerpt from my short story “A Prince’s Ransom,” which can be found in Love and Laughter, an anthology containing short stories written by Jann Rowland and by me.

I tend not to go too far outside the norm when I write any sort of Pride and Prejudice variation, but this is one time when I did, reimagining the main characters’ stations while still trying to retain the appropriate flavor. Surprisingly, it’s one of my favorite things that I have written.

When you read a Pride and Prejudice variation, do you prefer things to be drastically different, or do you like it more when everything is comfortably familiar yet subtly changed? I would love to hear from you about that – and about some of your favorite variations and why! Is it the writing? Is it the plot? Is it the setting? Please feel free to share!

Excerpt from “A Prince’s Ransom,” short story in the Love and Laughter anthology.

“This is all your fault, you know.”

“You must excuse me for disagreeing, Lady Elizabeth, but I hardly believe it to be my fault that we are being held by a band of ruffians.”

“I despise horses, and I should never have been out riding one were it not for you, sir.”

“I did not coerce you into accompanying me, madam.”

“Perhaps you did not, Your Royal Highness, but my mother certainly did. When a prince indicates his interest in spending time with a young woman, it is difficult for her to refuse him. You put me in an uncomfortable position by asking me.”

“You are the daughter of a duke. I hardly think that your reputation would have suffered had you rejected my suggestion outright.”

“If that is what you truly believe, then you are more oblivious than I thought,” muttered Elizabeth, shaking her head in aggravation.

His Royal Highness, Prince Fitzwilliam Darcy, stared at her, waiting for her to elucidate. Unfortunately for him, she was less than inclined to do so.

At present, Elizabeth was attempting to saw at the rope that bound her hands behind her chair by awkwardly moving a blessedly sharp penknife up and down. The knife had been an unexpected boon. The room in which she and the prince had at last opened their eyes was a study of sorts that had seen better days. Debris was scattered across the floor, and it appeared as if it had been ransacked by looters at some point, with almost everything of value removed. Elizabeth had appeared less than dignified bouncing her chair backwards toward the desk so she could blindly rifle through the drawers, but she had found what she had sought, and she frankly no longer cared what the prince thought of her. He was the reason she found herself in this mess, and she felt justified in holding onto her anger against him.

When it became apparent that she did not intend to say anything further without prompting, the man spoke. “I am afraid I do not catch your meaning.”

“Of course not. Why would a proud prince ever deign to learn more about the pitiful lives of the subjects in his kingdom? In a ballroom, all you ever do is glare down your nose at those who dare to breathe the precious air around you.” Elizabeth gritted her teeth at the chafing of the rope tied around her wrists, pausing a moment from her sawing to give her tender flesh some relief. The gloves she was wearing had slipped down somewhat, exposing the skin to the cruel burn of her bonds. “Perhaps it has escaped your notice, but some of the mice beneath your feet are living lives of genteel poverty.”

The man’s expression seemed to falter. “I was not aware His Grace was struggling—”

“Of course you would not know,” said Elizabeth, beginning to saw at the rope once more. She had to fight back the urge to raise her voice. They were speaking quietly to keep the men posted outside their door from overhearing them, and Elizabeth did not want her irritation to capture the guards’ interest. “My mother would rather eat her entire wardrobe than reveal to anyone just how poorly off my family is. You have nothing to worry about. Your father will pay a king’s ransom for you—”

“I believe that would be a prince’s ransom.”

“But as for my family,” continued Elizabeth, her eyes flashing, “we are merely attempting to keep up pretenses. We cannot buy our way out of our problems.”

“Instead, your mother pushes you toward men of fortune.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips. “While I cannot countenance my mother’s behavior, I have never looked at a man only to learn the size of his holdings. I much prefer to learn about the man himself. I value the heart and mind of a prospective suitor, not his situation.”

“Yes, I saw how eagerly you were hanging on Sir Wickham’s words.”

Elizabeth stared at the prince, wondering at his venom. “If you saw that I was enjoying myself, then why did you feel inclined to pull me away?”

“That blackguard should not be seen in decent company. I did not wish for you to be lured in by his wiles.”

“I will have you know that I am a more discriminating woman than you might think,” said Elizabeth stiffly. “Two months ago, I refused a proposal from a baron.”

A curl of amusement actually made its way to His Royal Highness’s lips. “Yes, I heard about William Collins’s disastrous proposal.”

12 Responses to A Prince’s Ransom (Short Story Excerpt)

  1. Great excerpt. I prefer major changes but set in either the same time period or another historical period as modern settings are typically my least favorite.

    • I am there with you! I don’t typically have interest in modern settings, though I will admit that I do like Bridget Jones’s Diary!

  2. I’m glad you are feeling better. I hope it continues for you. Bless your heart. The excerpt was cute and certainly intriguing. I don’t mind outside-the-box stories. In fact, I prefer them. If all the stories followed canon, it would be very dull indeed. Variety is the spice… well, you know. I enjoy stories like your excerpt where they have a title. I love a Duke Darcy or a Lady Elizabeth. I do not enjoy stories where Elizabeth is TSTL [to-stupid-to-live]. Nope, nor do I enjoy stories where things are forced or convoluted and they are separated for no good reason other than they didn’t have five minutes so they could talk and clear the air. Oh, please, for the love of… don’t have Darcy in love with one of Elizabeth’s sisters… or someone else. D & E have to be together… period. Blessings on your future endeavors, stay safe, and healthy.

    • That is hilarious about the TSTL bit! I agree – if Elizabeth is TSTL, that is definitely no fun.

      I also enjoy when Elizabeth and Darcy have titles – it instills some great changes just by virtue of that.

      And I agree that Elizabeth and Darcy must be together!

  3. Glad you’re feeling better. And, yes, I did get a laugh out of this short story. I’ve enjoyed P&P’s that don’t adhere directly to canon and ones that were almost rewrites of the original. Most seem to have some appeal to them if well written. I’ve also written both as well.

    • Yeah, I think a lot of it tends to be in the writing. When things are poorly written, it is a chore to get through something, even if the general idea is intriguing.

  4. Yes, I remember this story (which I found fun), and I hope your morning sickness is easing. To answer your question on what I like to read when it comes to Jane Austen variations – all types! This took a little time, more of an evolution in taste. The more angst there is, the more I want to see Darcy and Elizabeth living a happy, loving and healthy life, possibly in an Epilogue. Generally, if a story is in the hands of a good writer, I have been open to almost anything: regency, modern, other times, other locations, fantasy, shape shifting, vampire, etc.

    • I like lots of angst – and I like when Darcy and Elizabeth are at odds in the beginning! I feel like it makes it all the sweeter when they come together.

      I’m not into reading modern tales, but I think I can be open to fantasy/supernatural sorts of tales as long as they have the Regency flavor. There’s just something about the societal restrictions and structures that appeals to me!

  5. I find that in general I prefer the characters and their situations to be closer to canon, but as I always say, what I’m really interested in is a good and well-told story. I’ve read several variations where the roles have flipped, or where something is very, very different, and I’ve enjoyed them greatly.
    So write on! And I’m glad you’re starting to feel better.

    • I generally like big departures from canon, but I think there are certain characteristics in certain characters that must be maintained for it to feel right. For instance, if I read a Jane that was written like Caroline, I think I would find it very difficult to suspend my disbelief! (However, I will note that a very talented author might be able to make it work for me…but it would be a lot of work on that author’s part!)

  6. Nice excerpt! I love the idea of Mr. Darcy as a prince!Glad your morning sickness is better.

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