This is the original working cover of my current work in progress.
In earlier posts, I mentioned Crossed a Little in Love was my 2020 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) writing project. Once I began the editing and revision phase of the story for mid-2022 publication, my intentions changed. Not that there are no instances of characters being crossed in love in this story. I decided to focus more on Darcy’s struggles as a young man, at the age of twenty-four, whose parents are still alive and in charge of everything. And I mean everything. Move over, Lady Catherine.
All is not in vain for this lovely cover, however. On the contrary, I love it too much not to use it for a future writing project. In the meantime, I needed a new cover and title for my next planned release. Here is the new working cover and an excerpt from Mr. Darcy, the Heir of Pemberley.
London, England – Spring 18xx
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s face felt stiff and unbending as the cool evening breeze brushed his flesh. His mouth ached with the weight of a frown. The loud chatter and music within the ballroom, full of sharply attired gentlemen and women wearing fashionable gowns and jewels, grated on him. He abhorred standing around and watching others make merry while he silently stewed. Darcy had no patience with his current situation, so he stepped outside to clear his mind.
The balcony’s solitude afforded him the perfect haven, away from the petty pleasures of others. The moon was full that night, its silvery rays casting a net across the skies, draping the grounds in its delicate glow. Darcy rested his hands on the balustrade, which was wrought with flowers—their sweet aroma anointing the eaves where it mingled with the honeysuckle blooming on the trellis. The palms of his hands fitted perfectly into the thick stone, and he steadied himself on the barrier. Darcy closed his eyes and let his mind wander. His thoughts seemed to drift miles and miles away until the music and laughter faded into the background. At length, footsteps approaching from behind broke his concentration.
Darcy darted his eyes around, looking for the source of the footsteps. One of his closest friends, Charles Bingley, was approaching and gave him a quick wave.
“What is it, Bingley?”
Good-looking and gentlemanlike, Bingley stood nearly as tall as Darcy. Darcy’s junior by two years, Bingley had a pleasant countenance and easy, unaffected manners.
“Come, Darcy,” Bingley said, “I must have you come back inside and dance. I hate to see you sulking about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better return to the ballroom and dance.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy scoffed. Absolving himself completely for his current state, he blamed his friend Bingley instead for his being there. Despite his pleasure at being in London, far away from Pemberley, his family’s estate in Derbyshire and his mother’s prying eyes, attending such soirees were not his favorite means of passing the time. A single young man of four and twenty, and the future heir to a large fortune—one far too large, in fact, for his own good, he had much rather be at White’s with his friends. Bingley, the outgoing fellow he was, had insisted they attend the soiree instead, and he’d challenged Darcy to a bet. Darcy lost the bet, and the price to pay was attending that night’s soiree.
It was one thing to attend such a gathering. Darcy surely did not mean to enjoy it. He meant to get through the ordeal without drawing undue attention to himself as much as possible, because he had grown tired of being viewed as the property of eager mammas in want of rich husbands for their silly daughters. Not that he did not enjoy the attention of members of the opposite sex when it suited him. He was not immune to the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman may well bestow. He enjoyed that manner of attention a great deal—just not that particular night.
“I certainly shall not,” Darcy replied. “You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. I daresay there is not a woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
Bingley’s expression changed from a smile to a frown. His lips flattened, his eyes narrowed, and he raised one hand to his forehead as if he were fending off a headache. “I declare, I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom,” he said. “Upon my honor, the room is flooded with pleasant girls.” A couple of giggling girls passed by arm in arm, as Bingley was speaking, momentarily diverting his attention. “There are several of them who are uncommonly pretty,” he continued.
Darcy shook his head and scoffed. His friend Bingley showed a marked tendency to think with his heart instead of his head, and it always led him into one fix or another. Still, that tendency had never landed him in anything that could not be overcome. How unfortunate for the young women involved that Bingley’s constancy was as fleeting as the wind. Darcy could have no doubt that whichever young woman who fell prey to Bingley’s charms was destined for heartbreak in a matter of weeks, if not days.
“I am afraid you are wasting your time with me. You had much better return to the dance and do your part to delight and please.”
“I know you fancy yourself on your discernment as it regards matters of the heart.” Bingley nodded sagely. “However, I wager there is at least one young lady in attendance this evening who is more than capable of piercing your facade.”
Darcy lifted a single, perfectly scripted brow. “You and your wagers are what got me into this predicament in the first place, did it not?”
“Be that as it may, you must allow me to introduce you to Isabella’s friend, the young woman who is visiting her from Hertfordshire. You must have seen her, she arrived with Isabella and the two of them have been inseparable ever since.”
Darcy had indeed seen the young woman whom Bingley spoke of—not that he gave her much notice. Miss Isabella Madden, whom he had known for years, was always attracting strays of one ilk or another. What was one more? Besides, whoever the young woman was, she was no doubt inferior to Isabella, who was steeped in elegance and grace, a true sign of good breeding, of wealth, and of privilege. It would not surprise him one bit to learn her friend had connections in trade. How insupportable!
“As a matter of fact, I did notice Isabella’s new acquaintance. What of her?”
“She is very pretty. Surely you cannot deny it. Having met her earlier, I dare say the young lady is very agreeable. Do let me ask Isabella to introduce you.”
“Surely you jest. I have no interest in meeting Isabella’s new friend. She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
Bingley shook his head.
“What?” Darcy asked, his impatience with his friend ever increasing.
“I suppose I might just as well leave you to yourself. But before I go, might I offer you a bit of advice?”
“As though I have a choice but to listen,” Darcy said. “What is it, then?”
“Perhaps one would be wise not to judge a book by its cover.”
Sage advice from Mr. Bingley, no? To find out Elizabeth’s take on the events on the balcony, read the next chapter for free on my Patreon page. Click here.
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