A Quick Peek at My Upcoming Austen-Inspired Novel, “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride” by Regina Jeffers

A Quick Peek at My Upcoming Austen-Inspired Novel, “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride” by Regina Jeffers

Now that I am finally moved into my new house and have retrieved the majority of my things from first one box and then another, I have started the editing stage of my next Austen-inspired novel. It is titled, “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride,” and I must tell you, I adore this tale. 

Here is the premise: Darcy comes to Hertfordshire to assume control of the Meryton militia while Colonel Forster is on his “honeymoon” (not a Regency word) with his new wife. Yes, in this one, I also make Darcy a colonel in the militia, but he only serves when required by his station in life. It is there Darcy first encounters Elizabeth at the Meryton assembly, but he interrupts an “interlude” between her and Mr. Wickham, which sends our dear couple down an unusual trail to happiness. Naturally, if you have ever read one of my books, you will know before I say it, that particular “trail’ has more than a few bumps and hairpin turns along the way to an HEA for our most sought after pair. 

Enjoy Chapter One below, keeping in mind it has had but one quick edit before posting it here. I beg you to ignore typos, the occasion awkward phrasing, etc.

 

Chapter One

“Darcy, you have arrived at last,” his friend Charles Bingley called as Darcy stepped down from his coach before Netherfield Park. He certainly did not look forward to the next month. First, there was the issue of tolerating Bingley’s sisters, especially Miss Caroline Bingley, whose desperation to claim a husband in Society made her too bold. Darcy had already instructed Sheffield, his valet, to plan to make up a bed in Darcy’s quarters specifically to avoid any breach of Society the woman might break. He would not have Miss Bingley sneaking into his quarters and claiming a compromise.

He shook his friend’s outstretched hand. “I apologize for my delay.”

“Most assuredly, I understand. Who would have thought the brief encounter with Colonel Forster when you and I first toured Netherfield Park would have you fulfilling your promise to the man so soon.”

Darcy walked beside his friend as they entered the house. “How could I refuse Forster’s simple request? It is only a matter of a few weeks.”

“My limited interactions with Forster since I arrived in Hertfordshire speaks to the fact the man is quite besotted with the young lady he intends to marry,” Bingley explained.

Darcy could not imagine a man with Colonel Forster’s intelligence being “besotted” by a silly wisp of a girl, as was Miss Harriet Benjamin. Without a doubt, Darcy would never be attracted to such a woman. “I understand the truth of your words, Bingley, for I have viewed the pair together while in London.”

“When must you call upon Forster?” Bingley asked.

“I suppose it is best I make my presence known to the colonel some time later today. If I understand the situation correctly, Forster means to marry Miss Benjamin on Monday. Hopefully, you will consider joining me in the village. I am counting on you to introduce me to many of the local families.”

“Gladly done,” Bingley declared with a wide smile. “There is an assembly this evening. If you are not too exhausted from your journey, such might prove a means to bring you to the notice of several prominent families without the necessity of us making multiple house calls. Bingley jovially slapped Darcy on the back. “I know how you abhor such social calls.”

Darcy accepted Bingley’s teasing in stride. They were an odd pair: Bingley was known for his affability, while he . . . What could Darcy say? Large gatherings made him uncomfortable.

* * *

“I cannot pronounce the depth of my gratitude for your having agreed to assist me,” Colonel Forster said, at least, a half dozen times.

Darcy shifted uncomfortably: He was not one to seek praise for doing the correct thing. “My father would have expected nothing less from me. Moreover, it is only for a month. I can return to Pemberley in time for the spring planting.” To turn the subject from his supposed sacrifice, he asked, “When will Miss Benjamin arrive in Hertfordshire?’

“Tomorrow,” Forster declared with a silly grin marking his mouth. “Her parents wished for an exchange of vows in their home shire, but with my duties to the militia, I could not be too far removed from my post. Such is the reason my lady and I will travel to Brighton for our private celebration. The soldiers stationed in Meryton are scheduled to remove to Brighton soon.” He reached for a stack of papers on his desk. “I have outlined all which must occur during your stay,” Forster assured. “Fortunately, I have several officers who are quite efficient in the performance of their duties who will gladly assist you during your brief stay.”

Darcy nodded his approval. “As I expected. You were always one for detail, Forster.”

“I am counting on you to stand up with me at the ceremony,” Forster declared. “I cannot show favor to those beneath me, and, obviously, we have known each other longer than any acquaintances I have established here. Say you will serve as my witness. Doing so should permit my men to observe how I trust you implicitly. Send me off quite royally to enjoy the pleasures of my new bride while I await your removal to Brighton.”

“My pleasure,” Darcy responded.

Bingley happily added, “Taking a young bride to Brighton should earn you a few extra minutes of Mrs. Forster’s attentions when you must resume your duties, heh?”

Forster grinned easily. “I certainly hope so.”

* * *

“You appear very refined this evening, Mr. Darcy,” Miss Bingley said boldly. Instead of riding in Hurst’s coach with her sister and Mr. Hurst, Miss Bingley had insisted on joining Darcy and Bingley in her brother’s coach.

“My attire appeared appropriate for the evening,” Darcy said blandly. “It reflects my reason for being in the neighborhood.”

Bingley shared, “I am most looking forward to presenting you the acquaintance of the Bennet family. The Bennet estate is one of the more prominent ones in the area; we are barely three miles removed.”

“Is that not the family you mentioned earlier?” Darcy asked in seriousness.

Miss Bingley rolled her eyes in obvious disapproval. “You know Charles, Mr. Darcy,” she declared in critical tones. “The Bennets possess a comely daughter who has caught my brother’s eye.”

“Does your sister speak the truth, Bingley?” Darcy asked. He had spent numerous evenings listening to Bingley either pining over a woman beyond his reach or bemoaning losing a woman who had piqued his interest.

“Once you have taken her acquaintance, you will certainly agree Miss Bennet is the most affable creature to be had. She is an absolute angel.”

Darcy doubted such a woman existed, but he said, “I will be glad to take the acquaintance of all your new neighbors. As I am to remain in Hertfordshire for a month, I imagine I will be called upon to greet them often.”

Bingley observed, “Since the militia’s arrival, there has been a steady flow of evening engagements—card parties, suppers, and the like. Nothing to compare to London society, much to Caroline’s displeasure, but, if I am to take up a true position in society, I must own an estate and embrace the tedium of country life. In truth, I am content. Your many speeches on the joy of country life, Darcy, finally have claimed an audience. Expound on the subject all you wish while in Hertfordshire, and you will find a willing participant in the conversation.”

“Oh, please—” Miss Bingley groaned aloud.

However, there was no time to respond, for Bingley’s coach rolled to a halt before a well-lit assembly hall. A footman opened the door, and Bingley stepped down before turning to assist his youngest sister from the coach. Darcy waited patiently, purposely straightening the cut of his coat. He was not looking forward to this evening or the upcoming month, for that matter. However, James Forster had been a friend through many of Darcy’s most profound moments, especially during their university years, and it was time to repay Forster’s many kindnesses.

Although “outranking” the Bingleys in society, by design, Darcy walked behind Bingley and his family, allowing Bingley to claim the “adoration” of his new neighbors and further his friend’s acceptance into the neighborhood surrounding Netherfield Park. If Darcy had his way, he would be tucked comfortably into his chamber at Bingley’s estate, reading one of the books he had brought with him to while away the time before falling asleep. A country assembly was definitely not the way Darcy would wish to spend his evening. It was nearly as daunting for his personality as was a London ballroom. At least, here, in this temporary position, he was not likely to be surrounded by a dozen or more society mamas wishing to shove their daughters into his embrace.

“Ah, Mr. Bingley,” a matronly woman called while fluttering her handkerchief in the air to draw Bingley’s attention. “I told my girls the assembly could not begin until you arrived.” She hustled several comely girls forward. Each curtseyed to the Bingleys and the Hursts. Only the one with the reddish-brown hair and the hazel eyes appeared to realize Darcy was part of Bingley’s party. Her eyebrow rose in question, and Darcy fought the urge to glance down to view whether the cut of his clothes were askew. The woman’s lips twitched in apparent amusement, and he found himself frowning.

However, before either he or she could be properly introduced a young officer appeared at her side. “Pardon, Miss Elizabeth, I believe the first set belongs to me.” The man became aware of Darcy’s presence. He stiffened in typical military fashion as a man acknowledging another who held a higher rank. “I beg your pardon, sir. I did not realize you were a part of Mr. Bingley’s party.” He bowed, but his uneasiness remained.

“No offense taken. Enjoy your dance, Captain. I believe Miss . . .”

The captain supplied, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, sir.”

“Ah, one of the Bennets,” Darcy thought, but he said, “Good to renew our acquaintance, Captain Denny. I am certain we will have further conversations as the time agrees.”

“May I officially give you the lady’s acquaintance, sir?” the captain asked.

Darcy said in polite tones. “I would not wish to delay your dance. The musicians appear prepared to begin and the sets are forming. I am certain Mr. Bingley will he happy to do the honors a bit later, and I do already know the lady’s name, thanks to you.” Darcy bowed to the young lady, whose countenance said she was not best pleased by his response. “I see Colonel Forster has arrived, and I should join him for more introductions.”

“Certainly, sir.” The captain placed the lady’s hand on his arm and led her away. However, twice the woman looked back to where Darcy stood, and, like it or not, the sensation of having captured her attention proved more satisfying than he would admit, even to himself.

However, reluctantly, he turned away. “If you will pardon me,” he said to Bingley’s party, “I should join Colonel Forster for the time being.” As much as he would regret having to perform his duty to Bingley’s sisters, he said, “As I am certain others have previously claimed your hand for the beginning sets, Miss Bingley, if you have not promised the third set to another, I would be honored to escort you onto the floor.”

The lady appeared disappointed regarding his not asking for the first, but she smiled politely and accepted.

Conscientiously, Darcy claimed Mrs. Hurst for the fourth and quietly whispered his plans to Bingley, who still conversed with the woman who could only be “Mrs. Bennet.” The comely lady who stood with the Bennet family matron must certainly be “Miss Bennet.” Bingley had been correct regarding the woman’s handsome countenance; yet, when Darcy looked upon the lady, he knew only mild appreciation. Without consciously doing so, he turned his attention to where Captain Douglas Denny, a man Darcy knew casually from Derbyshire, stood across from Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and some sort of gnawing invaded Darcy’s chest as the young lady’s head came up, and she looked at him as if she, too, felt the same discomfort. Perplexity claimed her features, and Darcy suspected his, as well.

* * *

Elizabeth wished to ask Captain Denny more of the stranger, but theirs proved to be a lively country dance, and the good captain appeared to be concentrating on his steps. He was a bit awkward, and so she held her tongue. However, before they began the dance, she had learned the gentleman owned a large estate in the northern shires, and he was in Hertfordshire to assist Colonel Forster.

“It is my understanding, the gentleman is standing up with the colonel at Forster’s wedding,” Denny had supplied.

“And oversee the militia, as well, in Forster’s absence?” Elizabeth asked, shooting a quick glance in the stranger’s direction. “How say your fellow officers?”

“Not certain about all,” Captain Denny replied. Unfortunately, holding a conversation and dancing was obviously not easy for the man to perform, for he missed a step and blushed. However, when it was their turn to stand back and permit the others to complete the form, he explained, “Back in Derbyshire, the gentleman holds the reputation of being fair-handed, but he is not as affable as Forster.”

“You know him personally?” Elizabeth asked.

“More by reputation than experience,” Denny said before they rejoined the set.

After the set, as she stood along the dance floor with her family, Elizabeth learned the man was one of Mr. Bingley’s closest friend. Jane had explained, “The gentleman was Mr. Bingley’s dearest companion since they were at university together. I believe that is how he also knows Colonel Forster, although Forster was some years ahead of both at school.”

Elizabeth managed to say, “It speaks well to the man’s character that as a gentleman in the strictest sense of the word, he has embraced a man who earned his fortune in trade. Many would not be so kind.” She would withhold her opinions until she had interacted with the gentleman personally, but she had not been best pleased by their initial interactions.

* * *

Darcy noticed Miss Elizabeth Bennet set out the third set. If he had realized how few gentlemen there were to dance with the abundance of ladies, he might have claimed a set with the woman. “Might” was the operative word. He was never at his best when he was expected to interact with a stranger, and for some unexplained reason, he would wish to be at his best when he partnered the lady on the dance floor.

“Who do you watch so intently?” Miss Bingley demanded as she passed him in the form.

“Just watching the citizens of Meryton,” he responded cryptically, “and how the militia interacts with them.”

“You should not worry so. Neither the populace nor the militia officers are worthy of your notice,” Miss Bingley intoned with a sniff of her nose in obvious disapproval.

“You err, Miss Bingley. I have pledged my due diligence to Colonel Forster. Therefore, observation is essential to my success,” he explained.

“I pray your duties will not keep you from spending time at Netherfield. Meryton is such a dull place. Nothing of significance ever occurs there.”

“‘Nothing of significance’ is a blessed phrase for those in the country,” he corrected. “Maintaining an estate properly is quite time consuming.”

“Certainly an estate of Pemberley’s greatness would require a small army of servants to tend it,” she considered.

“And a master to oversee it all.”

“You speak nothing of a mistress,” she prompted, and Darcy instantly regretted permitting her to return to the lady’s favorite topic: The possibility of his making her an offer of marriage.

“When the time is right,” he said as the set thankfully came to an end. “I will claim a wife, but the time has not yet arrived for my doing so. There is still much to do for Pemberley’s future before I claim a wife and then am forced to neglect her.”

As he escorted Miss Bingley from the floor, he noticed someone who resembled a man he had hoped never to view again. He knew he stiffened in displeasure, but Darcy could not control the immediate reaction of revulsion coursing through him. To his horror, the man was leading a lady out into the cool night air, and the woman was Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

Darcy considered following her, but he had no right to interfere. Moreover, the man could be a relation. Or a potential suitor. The idea brought an unsolicited frown to his forehead.

“Is something amiss, Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Hurst asked. He glanced down to discover the woman looking up at him in obvious anticipation. As Mr. Hurst barely moved a muscle long enough to stand and walk into an adjoining room, he knew Mrs. Hurst enjoyed the opportunity to dance and to be considered “lively” again. He held an obligation to Bingley and the lady not to disappoint her.

“Nothing of significance, Mrs. Hurst,” he responded in polite tones. “I thought I noted a gentleman I knew from Derbyshire, but I am likely mistaken. Are you prepared for our dance?”

“Most assuredly, Mr. Darcy. I am delighted for the opportunity.” As he turned to escort her onto the small floor, she said, “I imagine you will know many of Colonel Forster’s men. I understand quite a few are from your part of England.”

“You are likely correct,” he said as he set her before him and waited for the music to begin. Yet, for the next half hour, Darcy’s eyes returned constantly to the door Miss Elizabeth had exited moments before. When he was not watching the door, his eyes scanned the room to see if she had rejoined the assembly by a side door, but she had not, and he feared the worst for the young lady.

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50 COMMENTS
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Liz
Liz
March 28, 2022 11:13 PM

I definitely want to finish this one! I can imagine Darcy’s difficulty commanding a militia with popular Wickham there to undermine him.

DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
March 26, 2022 5:36 PM

Enjoyed the excerpt and look forward to reading!

Cinnamon
AuAu
March 26, 2022 2:59 AM

Lovely except. I enjoyed it greatly.

Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
March 25, 2022 12:26 PM

Regina, I’m happy to hear you’re in your new home! Thank you for sharing this enticing excerpt!

Marie H
Marie H
March 24, 2022 3:53 PM

Well this is certainly an attention-grabbing beginning! Loving it so far and I’m excited to read more. I look forward to its release.

Robin G.
Robin G.
March 23, 2022 12:48 PM

What a fun cliffhanger! Thank you for sharing this excerpt.

Carole in Canada
Carole in Canada
March 23, 2022 8:35 AM

No1 No! No! You can’t leave us there! So much can happen during that time! What was Elizabeth thinking to allow it? When did you say it will be released? I do hope your move went smoothly. I do know how arduous moving is! As you can tell, I look forward to your new release!!! Congratulations!

Riana Everly
AuAu
March 23, 2022 8:27 AM

I love this premise! I can just imagine Colonel Darcy, taking it all so seriously. What a great start to a book.

Kirstin Odegaard
AuAu
March 22, 2022 1:18 PM

Aah! Wickham moving in for the kill and Darcy not ready to act. Great beginning.

Good luck with the unpacking!

Gillian Lester-George
Gillian Lester-George
March 22, 2022 9:49 AM

Can’t wait!

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
March 22, 2022 8:50 AM

What a fun beginning. Looking forward to more.

Buturot
March 21, 2022 11:00 PM

Looking forward to your new book. Thank you for sharing this excerpt (just eager to know what happens next)

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
March 21, 2022 7:13 PM

I love suspense! Sounds like a great read!!

Deanna27
Deanna27
March 21, 2022 4:42 PM

Oh my, must put on my TBR

Linda A.
Linda A.
March 21, 2022 3:29 PM

The trick will also be remembering where you put things in the new house!

(half-way through first round … shhhh)

Regina McCaughey-Silvia
Regina McCaughey-Silvia
March 21, 2022 3:06 PM

Very interesting beginning for sure! Do you know when it’s going to be released?

Ginna
Ginna
March 21, 2022 1:39 PM

Oooh, did not know that you had a book in the works. I look forward to it!

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
March 21, 2022 12:34 PM

Delightful post. OH… you stopped at the best part… Elizabeth alone with the SBRB [sum-bag-rat-bastard]. GRRR! That was very sneaky of you. LOL! I am looking forward to reading this. Congratulations on a successful move. Eventually, you will find all your stuff and probably in the last place you looked. That has always been my situation. Blessings on the completion and launch of this work.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
March 21, 2022 12:34 PM
Reply to  J. W. Garrett.

I forgot… wonderful cover art. Man, she is beautiful… and so Elizabeth.

Bronwen Chisholm
AuAu
March 21, 2022 12:12 PM

Wonderful excerpt! Can’t wait to read more!

ForeverHis
ForeverHis
March 21, 2022 9:52 AM

Another wonderful book by Regina Jeffers. I’m intrigued. Oh Elizabeth–alone with an unmarried man–not good!

Glynis
Glynis
March 21, 2022 9:41 AM

I would have expected Elizabeth to have more sense than to be alone with someone she can hardly know well but obviously not! Hopefully Darcy will rescue her before it’s too late? I’m looking forward to this one. Thank you for sharing this excerpt!

Michelle David
Michelle David
March 21, 2022 7:42 AM

Not a wise move by our dear girl.

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
March 21, 2022 6:41 AM

I love the excerpt! I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Gianna Thomas
AuAu
March 21, 2022 5:10 AM

Nice excerpt, Regina. I wonder what happens if Darcy goes looking for Wickham and Elizabeth. Look forward to the rest of the story.

Gianna Thomas
AuAu
March 22, 2022 4:46 AM
Reply to  Regina Jeffers

Good!

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