Miss Elizabeth’s Unforgettable Assembly excerpt and cover, by Colin Rowland

Miss Elizabeth’s Unforgettable Assembly excerpt and cover, by Colin Rowland

What if the Meryton Assembly in Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth and Darcy had their first meeting and not so coincidentally formed their first, unfavorable, impressions of each other had taken a different course from the one we are familiar with? Would our beloved protagonists still have fallen in love, or would their HEA have been put in jeopardy? And who’s to say that the version we have is an accurate recitation of what really happened that evening?

There are two sides to every story, or what I refer to as my side, which is infallible in every case, and the other side, which is invariably flawed and riddled with inaccuracies. If we were able to compare both versions, Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s, whose would we believe, or could we combine the two accounts into a more accurate picture of the events of that night?

Such is the premise of Elizabeth Said, Darcy Said, my upcoming series of six novellas. In each pair of stories, I am taking one of the better-known situations from Jane Austen’s masterpiece and telling it from each character’s point of view. As you no doubt have guessed, the first two novellas explore that infamous assembly in Meryton, but I am taking the liberty of telling the same story from opposing points of view. My goal in doing so is to show how the same situation is experienced in completely different ways, depending on whose version of the story we are hearing.

In the original book Darcy always impressed me as a bit of a jerk and I have a tendency to write him as one in most of my novels. But he must have had his reasons, valid or not, for acting the way he did and offering such degrading comments when Bingley mentioned Elizabeth. I thought it would be both fun and rewarding to explore his side of some of the situations in the book and I was right. Since beginning work on these first two I have a greater appreciation of the man and an understanding of his actions throughout the original novel.

The following is an excerpt from Miss Elizabeth’s Unforgettable Assembly, with the cover revealed at the bottom of the page. It opens with Bingley suggesting Elizabeth as a suitable partner for Darcy to dance with, and his insulting reply, which is the basis for what follows:

“Your definition of comely is a lot different from mine,” he said with a shake of his head. “None of the girls I can see are close to adequately comely and I am not tempted to ask any of them to dance with me. You found the prettiest girl in the room to dance with and she is now occupied with somebody else. I expect you already asked her for another before this dance started, so I would be out of luck again. No, Bingley, I am content to let you have all the fun.”

Elizabeth watched a rapturous expression steal over Mr. Bingley’s face when Mr. Darcy referred to Jane, and saw a faraway look come into his eyes. His infatuation was plain to see and Elizabeth suffered a momentary pang of jealousy at the mention of his recent dance partner, followed by a fervent wish that he would be a worthy suitor should he decide he wanted to pursue her elder sister.

Mr. Darcy’s comment had his friend’s chest swelling with pride and Elizabeth hoping he was a man interested in more than the status of having an alluring woman on his arm.

Mr. Bingley, however, seemed willing to put such emotions aside in his endeavors to find someone to accompany Mr. Darcy onto the floor for a dance.

“What about Miss Bennet’s sister, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked to an emphatic shake of his friend’s head. “She is as pretty and appears to possess at least as much skill as her sister. Why not dance with her and treat yourself to an enjoyable half-hour?”

“Your neighbors may consider her comely, but she is nowhere near handsome enough for me to consider asking for a dance. I do not have the time or the desire to make the acquaintance of someone so simple and unsophisticated as Miss Elizabeth. As I told you, I am perfectly willing to watch you have all the fun. My participation is not necessary for you to enjoy yourself tonight.”

His reply would not have annoyed her if it had come from anyone else at the assembly, but Elizabeth’s formerly indifferent attitude was changing as she listened to him denigrate not only her, but every other girl in attendance.

Mr. Bingley had turned away from his friend as if in disgust at his heartless and derogatory remarks. By chance his eyes fastened on Elizabeth and the blood left his face, turning his countenance ashen, she supposed, at being overheard. Frantically, he tried to silence his companion, but his effort came too late to stop the insensitive words.

“Lower your voice,” he whispered as if doing that would make Mr. Darcy’s words less offensive. “People are listening, and they will consider what you are saying an affront to everyone in the county.”

“And what if they are? Should they criticize me for telling the truth? It is your insistence I take part in an activity I do not want to participate in, or need to embarrass myself at, that is responsible for what I stated. If anyone is listening to us, they should have the sense to ignore it, or better manners than to repeat what they hear.”

“And you wonder why people so often seem to form a dislike for you before they ever meet you,” Mr. Bingley sighed and nodded in Elizabeth’s direction. “It is your habit of thoughtlessly sharing these beliefs that turns them against you.”

It was clear to Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy was unaware she sat close enough to overhear the conversation and just as clear pride would not allow him to acknowledge his error. He gave her a brief look and turned back to his friend as if to finish their discussion, but Mr. Bingley had by this time transferred his consideration to her.

“Please forgive us,” he pleaded, “we did not notice you sitting there. It does nothing to excuse our behavior, but I feel terrible for having treated you so terribly.”

Elizabeth felt no anger toward this charming man. Throughout the entire conversation he had been the voice of reason which his friend by his actions had scorned as if his view were unimportant. No, she directed her animosity toward Mr. Darcy, whose overabundance of conceit by itself damned him in her eyes.

“I accept your apology, Mr. Bingley,” she said, rising from the settee and giving him her widest smile, “and thank you for having the courtesy to take the blame for your friend’s ill manners.” Here she stopped to fix Mr. Darcy with a glare.

“May I offer some advice?” she continued, turning back to Mr. Bingley, and ignoring the other as if her were unworthy of addressing. “Spend your time with a better quality of people. Find someone of higher breeding to associate with. Friendships with men of inferior upbringing and temperament will only bring you down to their level and result in a loss of esteem from people wanting to attract your favor.”

Mr. Bingley did not refute what she had said about his friend but dropped his head in shame. His chagrin elevated him in her eyes, and his previous apologies on behalf of both endeared him further. This was a man not afraid to accept his mistakes and take steps to atone for any pain or anguish he caused. She could not say this about Mr. Darcy, but that was best left to his friend to resolve. Let him learn from his mistakes; it might do him some good.

Her point carried, she left the men, knowing that to remain guaranteed a scene she would rather avoid. Her answer to Mr. Darcy’s contempt would suffice, in her view, and nothing she might think to add would make her point with any more strength. In walking away, she was telling them she chose to rise above the pettiness she had witnessed.

She heard Mr. Bingley’s laughter as she departed. He did not direct it at her, she knew, but at her reply to his humble apology. He then began teasing Mr. Darcy about being put in his place by someone he had described as too simple and unsophisticated to bother with. According to Mr. Bingley, she had shown herself his equal. She did not hear Mr. Darcy’s reply and could not bring herself to bother about what he might have said. The man was not a gentleman, and certainly not worth losing any time over.

As I said, this story is told entirely from Elizabeth’s point of view, but I have tried to delve deeper into her thoughts and her preconceived notions to explain her reactions to what she assumes is an insult directed specifically at her. I’ve also had some fun with the story, as you will see in chapter 5. My beta readers had a good laugh at one particular passage, as did I when it came to me. I want everyone to know that, as I am an animal lover and presently support a cat and four dogs, no animals were harmed in the creation of this story. Have I piqued your interest yet? I hope so.

The paperback version will be available on Amazon early in June, with the eBook version on a two-week presale at the same time.

The next novella, which will go on presale the same day the eBook is released, retells this story, but exclusively from Darcy’s side. I guarantee you will be surprised at the reasons he has for acting in such a fashion and will come to a greater appreciation for this oft-maligned individual.

It will be offered in the same manner as the first, with the paperback released two weeks before the eBook, which will be on presale at that time.

The next two, followed by the last two in the series, will follow that pattern as well, with the final stories released in mid to late July, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, if you’ll pardon my use of an old and well-worn phrase.

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank a certain person for all the invaluable help they have been giving me. They do not want to be identified and I will respect their wishes, but I know they will read this, and want them to know how grateful I am. With your guidance and suggestions I have grown as a writer. I still have a long way to go but people tell me I am improving. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

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12 COMMENTS
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DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
June 13, 2022 9:15 PM

Enjoyed the excerpt and am intrigued by your statement “no animals were harmed in the creation of this story.”

Gianna Thomas
AuAu
June 1, 2022 11:14 PM

Thank you for the excerpt. As to thinking Darcy a bit of a jerk, I agree. However, I don’t think it is because he is a mean-spirited individual. I think he is shy but doesn’t think before he speaks, especially when he feels put on the spot. Thus, he just reacts. That usually doesn’t make for the best situation. It also means he can be misunderstood as well. Consequently, Elizabeth Bennet is about to wring his neck at some point. Hopefully, she can help him improve. Look forward to the rest of the novellas. 🙂

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
June 1, 2022 8:33 PM

Looking forward to reading these.

Robin G.
Robin G.
June 1, 2022 2:08 PM

I love the excerpt, Colin, thank you for sharing it with us. Do you plan to have the 6 novellas in one book at some point, or keep them as 6 separate books?

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
June 1, 2022 12:42 PM

Oh, I want to read this… these… I should say. Congratulations and blessings on a successful launch. I look forward to reading the first in the series. Thanks for sharing.

Shana Jefferis
Shana Jefferis
May 31, 2022 9:37 PM

Best of luck with your new releases! Thank you for sharing these fun excerpts!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
May 31, 2022 9:23 PM

Sounds fun! Can’t wait to read it!

Charmaine M
Charmaine M
May 31, 2022 5:14 PM

Can’t wait to explore all the novella’s! The question is do I wait for all of them to come out or read them and build anticipation for the next….lol! thanks Colin!

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