Happily Ever After Comes True, by Sharon Lathan

Happily Ever After Comes True, by Sharon Lathan

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so I suppose that means the love-holiday is technically over. Or better yet, as I believe, everyday should be focused on love, particularly for those of us who do write “romance” stories. I put the “romance” in quotes because I am aware that every author perceives their novels differently. . . not all as heavy on the romantic themes over action, suspense, history, society, and so on. As for my novel series — The Darcy Saga — while I have a bit of action and lots of history, I boldly proclaim Romance-with-a-captiol-R is a major theme. That is why, when my editor long ago suggested my tagline should be “Happily Ever After Comes True” I instantly recognized she was spot on!  To this day, and surely forever, that tagline is prominent on my website header. Visitors immediately know what they are getting from my ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Knowing that romance is a key element of my novels, a reader should anticipate lots of passages devoted to the topic, in all the varying degrees. That isn’t the only subject written within the thousands of pages comprising my novels (contrary to “critics” who exaggerate the content) but I can’t deny that when selecting romantic excerpts to share, I do have many to choose from! LOL!

As a followup to Valentine’s Day, I have decided to share two excerpts from The Darcy Saga Prequel Duo. Detailing the two-months of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s betrothal, the novels definitely have a romantic tone as our favorite couple learn more about each other and grow closer together.

In this excerpt, from Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship, the chosen snippet takes place on the evening of the day Mr. Darcy proposed for the second time, successfully this time! Invited to dine at Longbourn with the Bennets and the also newly-engaged Mr. Bingley, the two gentlemen passed some time after dinner with Mr. Bennet, and are now walking with their respective brides-to-be in the moonlit garden. Following the steps of Darcy and Elizabeth, who veered a bit away from Bingley and Jane, a quiet conversation ensues.

“I am curious as to why you have yet to ask me what passed during my hour with your father. I know we have much to learn about each other; however, past experience assures me that I could have wagered a substantial amount that your inquisitiveness would override reticence in this instance. In most instances, for that matter.”

“I am not sure if I am ready to hear the secrets of manly conversation,” she hedged. “Discourse on the best tobacco would merely bore me. Talk of politics or world events might begin an argument if I disagreed with you—”

“As you most likely would, honestly or with designs to test me,” Darcy interrupted with a laugh.

Lizzy laughed with him. “True, I admit. And if the talk digressed to how best to gut a fish or skin a rabbit, I might fulfill your previous prediction and faint at your feet, Mr. Darcy.”

Darcy pursed his lips, feigned serious consideration, and then shook his head. “No, that I doubt as well. Delicate and fragile you are, my Elizabeth, in all the feminine ways a man, especially this one, appreciates. Missish and squeamish? While I have no immediate plan to discuss animal gutting or skinning, I am not worried over an adverse reaction if I did.”

He paused, still smiling and wearing the unguarded, playful expression Lizzy was learning to adore, even as it continued to amaze her. The eyes partially hidden in the dim light shone with humor and emotion such as she never imagined from him. The combination overwhelmed her senses.

“For the record, none of those subjects came up tonight. We spoke primarily of you, and Miss Bennet, as I am sure you suspect, and that is why I am curious as to your avoidance of the topic. Frankly, I was anticipating an interrogation. Instead, you are uncommonly taciturn.” He cocked his head and playfully furrowed his brows. “I thought that was my failing and looked forward to being inspired by your fluency, not the other way around.”

Lizzy stared at the flower in her hands for a minute before finally inhaling, tossing it over the wall, and then boldly meeting Darcy’s eyes. “Would it surprise you, Mr. Darcy, if I confessed to being besieged by vacillating emotions all evening? Specifically nerves, confusion, and moments of fear?”

His body stiffened and, although still smiling, a sharp glint entered the eyes studying her face. Slowly he nodded. “Yes, I am surprised. Especially under the circumstances. All of us have our moments of lacking confidence or bravery. Nervousness I can readily comprehend, since I was nearly overwhelmed with anxiety several times today. For me this is not unusual, I am ashamed to admit. But you? Odd indeed. And worrisome. Tell me why you would feel any of those emotions, dear Elizabeth.”

“It is your fault, if you must know!” She spoke with more vigor than she intended, the combination of irritation and absurdity in the situation imbuing her tone.

Darcy’s left brow lifted. “It is?”

“Yes! You are a difficult man to read, Mr. Darcy, as I have tragically learned. Then, just as I begin to believe I am deciphering the subtleties of your body language, facial expressions, vocal tones, and the like, you change yet again! How am I to predict your reaction to a situation when you are inconsistent?”

“Perhaps I could aid in solving this serious dilemma if I had examples?”

Lizzy barreled on, completely missing his teasing inflection. “You entered Longbourn tense and cold as stone, yet fidgeting as you do when nervous. It frightened me near to death! I thought you had changed your mind. Then,” she rushed on, not giving him a chance to reply, “you seemed normal enough through dinner, even flirting a bit with Kitty—”

“I certainly was not flirt—”

“—and it was a relief to see you comfortable with my family, but when my father all but forced an indeterminate delay on our wedding, I expected you to be angry. Heaven knows I was! Instead, you do not seem to care one way or another, staring at the stars and making jokes. Jokes! And your face…”

Darcy grasped her hands and pulled her toward him. Since he was still sitting on the low wall, they were eye level. Between the sparkling gaiety visible as he stared at her, the rumbling laughter passing through his lips, and the nearness of his body, Lizzy stuttered to a halt.

“Life with you will never be boring, that is for certain. And I mean that in the most wonderful way. What is it about my face?”

The whispered words, along with the rest, incited a deluge of tingles through her muscles. “I…I cannot place it in words. It is more than your face. Your entire being is…relaxed.”

“I am happy, Elizabeth. You are seeing the man, the true me, who is deeply in love with you and ecstatic beyond words that you have agreed to share your life with me.” He pressed his lips to each of her hands, the kisses barely brushing her skin yet sending jolts up both arms. “I suppose it will be a typical pose when with you, so try to adjust.”

The teasing tone was not lost to her this time, although the second round of kisses, these a bit firmer, were extremely distracting. “So…”—she cleared her throat—“why so tense and cold when you arrived?”

“Do you want me to answer honestly?” The weighty undertone to his question gave her pause, but she nodded. “As you wish.” He stopped kissing her hands and inhaled. His eyes, she noted, were again touched with a sharp glint. “The truth is, the moment I laid eyes on you, my desire to cross the room, enfold you in my arms, and kiss you unceasingly was so powerful it was necessary for me to clamp down on every muscle in my body and look away from your face. A second longer and I would have succumbed to the urge. I am not sure Mr. Bennet bashing me over the head or shooting me would have stopped me once I started.”

“I…see.” Lizzy was sure the blush had spread to her toes. “And now?”

“And now I have re-exerted my self-control. For the present. I shall have to be on constant guard.” He smiled before resuming the tender kisses to her hands. “I pray that confession of my weakness, and my intensity, where you are concerned does not frighten, Elizabeth. Hopefully it eases your mind and convinces you that nothing will cause me to change my mind about us?”

“I am convinced, and I am not frightened, Mr. Darcy. I am shocked to hear such lengthy speeches cross your lips, however.”

Again he laughed, the amused, low rumble initiating fresh flutters inside her belly. “The day of surprises and strange flipping of our personalities continues, it seems. Except for the flirting accusation. That is a skill I never mastered when it was acceptable, as you can attest, considering you are the only woman I tried to charm.”

“Oh my! You must be awful indeed because I never detected behavior remotely flirtatious! Knowing you are a man who speaks truthfully, Mr. Darcy, assures me on that count as well.”

In this next excerpt from Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future, the second novel in the Prequel Duo, the scene takes place at Darcy House in London. Roughly two weeks before the wedding, Darcy and Elizabeth are quite comfortable with each other, so much so that banter and teasing are the norm! While dining, and under the semi-watchful eye of Mr. Bennet, the two share a whispered conversation sure to bring a smile to a reader’s face. Enjoy!

“William,” she whispered as soon as the opportunity arose for a semi-private conversation, “is something amiss?”

He swung his eyes to her immediately and then dropped them to his plate. “No! Nothing. That is, nothing to worry over. We can discuss it later.”

“I would rather discuss it now, please. My overactive imagination will leap to all manner of ridiculous assumptions. You know it will. Do you really wish to be the cause of that, Mr. Darcy?”

His lips twitched, but he still evaded her gaze. Hesitantly, speaking so low she had to lean closer, he explained, “I do not wish to cause wild speculations, but also do not wish to ruin your dinner.”

“A dinner this superb will not ruin, I assure you. Now,” she flattened her hand atop his, which was fiddling with the edge of his napkin, “look at me and speak plainly.”

Sighing, he did as she asked. His eyes were faintly troubled but more sheepish than anything. “I regret to inform that I shan’t be able to escort you home. I must stay in London on…business.”

“Oh! I see! Well, this is disappointing, of course, but I understand. We have sprung the news suddenly and did plan to stay longer. What business do you have? Or is it more of your secret plotting for my grand entrance into Pemberley?”

“Perhaps,” he hedged. “I have a meeting with my solicitor, Mr. Daniels, on Tuesday for various estate matters. On Wednesday I am meeting with a merchant at the Exchange who is…acquiring select items for me. No, do not ask,” he added when her lips parted. “However, the main reason is…Well, to be frank, it is a bit embarrassing.”

“Something embarrassed Mr. Darcy? Oh! Please tell me!”

Smiling, he slid his fingers through hers, the napkin acting as a shield from the sharp eyes of Mr. Bennet at the far end of the table. “I may regret confessing this, but, as you are aware, I attended a meeting at the Jockey Club last week. It seems that in the excitement over our engagement, it completely slipped my mind that one of the horses bred at Pemberley is competing at Newmarket. I really should not miss… Must you laugh? Have you no pity for my predicament, Miss Elizabeth?”

“Forgive me, but I am imagining the consternation amongst your Jockey Club peers at having anything horse related ‘slip the mind’ of Mr. Darcy. Were they searching the sky for flying pigs?”

“Not that I noticed. Although, now that you mention it, Lord Westingcote did stare out the window for a long while. I thought that the result of Mr. Shelley’s riveting dissertation on the benefits of blue banners over red. What do you think?”

“Of Lord Westingcote’s inattentiveness, or the banners?”

“Both.”

“I cannot fathom how a discussion of the vital importance of proper banner color bored any one of sound mind, so his lordship must have been searching the sky for the flying pigs. And obviously red, always red. Unless they plan to invite bulls to the races?”

“We voted against that this year. It was a narrow margin, however, so perhaps blue banners might be safer, in case they revisit the inclusion of bulls another year.”

Lizzy shook her head, laughing softly to avoid drawing undue attention, and squeezed his fingers. She adored bantering with him, the fun enhanced now that he had learned to relax and explore his surprising propensity to tease and outwit. “So, an important race is upcoming, and you wish to watch your exceptional Pemberley thoroughbred take the prize. I can find no fault in this perfectly reasonable excuse to stay in town, Mr. Darcy. I suppose if I must share you with other entertainments, horse racing is a worthy choice.”

“Once we wed, you can come with me, Elizabeth. If you wish.”

“I would like that very much! I’ve never been to a horse race, but it must be thrilling. Watching you race certainly is, when I am not frightened half to death by one of your daredevil exploits, that is. I look forward to sharing in those sports and activities you are passionate about.”

“And I you, my dear. Who knows, I may even surpass your skills as a juggler, in time and with serious study.”

Lizzy groaned. “I swear, from this day forward you are forbidden to listen to another word anyone in my family says to you regarding my youth. But, for the record, I did master three balls in the air at once.”

“If only you had persevered, instead of diverting in your quest to conquer shovelboard and become the reigning champion in all of Hertfordshire. How did that endeavor go again?” Lizzy groaned a second time and briefly covered her eyes. Grinning, Darcy pressed on, “Imagine the possibilities! You might now be a juggling master performing at Astley’s circus.”

Further joking was interrupted by the next course, Lizzy reluctantly removing her hand from Darcy’s. Once they were served, and taking advantage of the footman serving Georgiana, who sat beside her, Lizzy again leaned toward him, whispering, “I will miss you terribly. No one can tease me as skillfully as you, William. But…that is not the main reason.”

She held his gaze, ensuring he understood her meaning. The softening of his eyes, which dropped to her lips, and swift indrawn breath confirmed the message was received. Swallowing, he huskily replied, “I will return on Friday. Possibly Thursday evening, if my business concludes. Being parted from you, Elizabeth will be agonizing, so be prepared to make up for the lost time.”

Smiling dreamily, she reminded him, “We still have tomorrow, and for the sake of preventing overwhelming agony, I suggest it wise to find a way to create a stockpile, so to speak. What say you, Mr. Darcy? Does this sound like a feasible plan?”

“Darcy! I have told Miss Bennet of your idea for a walk tomorrow afternoon, and she is most agreeable. Capitol, isn’t it?”

Mr. Bingley’s interruption was fortuitous. Lizzy and Darcy seemed to have some difficulty remembering where they were, and who was around them, a fact made especially clear by the smirking Richard Fitzwilliam to Darcy’s right, and the half-amused and half-scolding expression on Mr. Bennet’s face. Lizzy flashed an unrepentant smile her father’s direction before diving into her food. At the same time, Darcy answered Bingley’s question in a steady voice, no trace of being taken unawares or caught in a mild impropriety.

I hope those two romantic scenes were enjoyable to y’all. 
Let me know in the comments below!
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Glynis
Glynis
February 16, 2022 11:06 AM

I absolutely adore a flirtatious romantic Darcy so I enjoyed these two excerpts very much. I think more rereads of this series will be in order soon! Thank you!

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
February 16, 2022 9:27 AM

I have loved all of your books, and Romance with a capital R is the main reason!!

Shana Jefferis
Shana Jefferis
February 15, 2022 11:40 PM

Wonderfully well written, Sharon! I can envision Jennifer Ely and Colin Firth performing these scenes!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
February 15, 2022 10:23 AM

So sweet and romantic! I love both of those books!

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