Every one of Austen’s novels has at least one annoying or embarrassing character in them, but I think Elizabeth Bennet has, by far, the most embarrassing relations. Her three younger sisters are ridiculous, her mother is a disaster, and her father is, to say the least, quite useless. And then, there is the matter of her cousin, Mr. Collins.
Mr. Collins is a combination of stupidity and arrogance, and poor Lizzy not only has to endure his company, but she also has the misfortune of receiving an offer of marriage from him. But no matter how annoying the man is, I have to admit, Pride and Prejudice would not be the same without him. He is such a real character and so well written that I feel like I have known him for years. He is definitely my favourite among all the embarrassing relations in Jane Austen’s novels. Who is your favourite?
Below, I share an excerpt from my novel, To Love and Cherish, where Georgiana Darcy meets her future husband’s annoying cousin, Mr. Brooks. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
A few hours after Lord Paisley visited Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, his sisters arrived at the park, awaiting Miss Darcy. However, while waiting for their friend, they came upon Mr. Brooks and Lord Windham, who bowed to the ladies and offered them their arms. The two couples began walking, Lady Claire and Lord Windham walking in the front and Lady Henrietta and Mr. Brooks following them closely.
“We cannot walk too far from the entrance,” Lady Henrietta informed the gentlemen. “We are expecting Miss Darcy to join us. We have planned to spend the day together.”
“It seems you ladies have grown very close in the short time you have known each other,” Mr. Brooks said.
“Indeed, we have, Cousin.” Lady Henrietta nodded excitedly, lowering her voice so only Mr. Brooks could hear her. “And our bond is bound to grow even stronger.”
“Tell me, Lady Henrietta. What do you mean?” Mr. Brooks asked with interest.
Lady Henrietta said in hushed tones, “My brother is courting Miss Darcy.”
Mr. Brooks almost chocked upon hearing the news. “His Lordship is courting Miss Darcy?”
“Indeed. But pray do not tell anyone. It is not known about yet, you see?”
“How is it that such big news has been kept a secret?”
“Their courtship is quite new. In fact, he only asked her for a courtship last night.”
“Incredible,” he said bitterly. “Your brother has been a sworn bachelor for years. I cannot fathom why he has changed his mind now and why he has chosen to court such a young lady.”
“He is in love, of course,” Lady Henrietta said as if it was the most obvious thing. “He is head over ears in love with Georgiana Darcy. I overheard his conversation with my mother this morning. Julian does not wish for a long engagement and means to marry her soon.”
“Do you not find it ironic that your brother is courting a young woman in her first season,” Mr. Brooks asked. “While he absolutely forbade you from accepting any offers in your first season? It is rather cruel of him.”
Lady Henrietta smirked. “I dare say, it is ironic, but I would not call him cruel. I cannot be angry with him for his courtship with Miss Darcy. She is wonderful and she will be a lovely sister to me. So, you see, it is all for the best.”
“But if he had granted you permission to accept offers, you could have been courted or even married by now.”
“Perhaps. Although, I might have been very unhappy with my choice now. I cannot make up my mind, you see? Perhaps it is a good that my brother did not allow me to marry during my first season. Because all the young gentlemen I liked then, now seem like dead bores.”
“But what about me? I sincerely hope you do not consider me a dead bore?”
Lady Henrietta laughed. “You are amusing.”
“And what if I were to offer for you?”
“But you will not offer for me,” Lady Henrietta returned, not at all embarrassed by the conversation. “You have no money to speak of, and I have no access to my inheritance for some time. Ours is a hopeless case.”
“But I can wait until you reach one and twenty and gain access to your inheritance.”
Lady Henrietta shook her head. “I do not believe I would like to wait for you until then. As amusing as you are, I know I will eventually lose interest.”
“You are cruel, my lady,” Mr. Brooks said, smiling despite his disappointment.
“I am frank, Cousin. Oh, and here comes Georgiana. Pray, do not repeat any of what I divulged about their courtship. She does not know that I know. I would not want to embarrass her.”
“You may rely on my secrecy.”
Lady Claire joined them as well, as Lord Windham had only said his farewell, joining another group.
“Good afternoon, Miss Darcy,” Lady Henrietta said. “I was beginning to worry you had forgotten our walk.”
Georgiana smiled. “I would never forget. I have been looking forward to our walk. I apologize if I kept you waiting.” Turning to her footman, she excused him, instructing him to return for her in two hours.
Lady Henrietta waved her hand lazily. “Allow me to make my cousin known to you. This is Mr. James Brooks. Mr. Brooks, this is Miss Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire.”
“How do you do, Mr. Brooks?”
“Miss Darcy.” Mr. Brooks bowed, smiling broadly at her. “I have heard so much about you from Lady Henrietta. She cannot stop singing your praises.”
“Lady Henrietta is very kind.”
Mr. Brooks smiled, carefully studying the young woman who was chosen as the future Lady Paisley. She was not the most beautiful woman he had seen in Lord Paisley’s company, and she certainly did not have the charms some of the other ladies used to attract gentlemen’s attention. But she had a certain quality about her that Mr. Brooks had to admit was rare. She was demure and soft spoken, and yet she seemed confident. Mr. Brooks offered her his arm, as the two sisters walked in front of them.
“Tell me, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Brooks began, “are you enjoying your first season?”
“I am, sir.”
“I have no doubt that you are already a favorite amongst the ton.”
“Everyone has been very kind.”
“Being a particular friend of the Paisley ladies must have provided you with certain privileges amongst families of the highest circles.”
“Their friendship is the only privilege I seek,” Georgiana said with indignation.
“But of course. After all, why would you look elsewhere, when Lord Paisley himself is so within reach. Eh, Miss Darcy?”
“I do not like your insinuations. Whatever relationship I may or may not have with the Paisley family is my concern.”
“You are mistaken, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Brooks countered, no longer smiling. “As Lord Paisley’s heir, I make it my concern to know everything and everyone connected to the family.”
Mr. Brooks smiled triumphantly. “Did you not know? In the event of His Lordship’s demise, I will be the one to inherit his estate and all his wealth. That is, of course, if he does not produce an heir before he dies.”
“I find your ease in discussing another man’s death most disturbing.”
“His Lordship is in a hurry to find a wife only to be able to produce an heir,” Mr. Brooks said. “Do you not find that equally disturbing?”
“I do not wish to continue this conversation, sir. It is most inappropriate for you to discuss His Lordship’s private affairs with me.”
“Oh, look,” Lady Henrietta interrupted, unaware of the uncomfortable conversation her friend was enduring, “my brother is here. And so is Colonel Fitzwilliam.”
Georgiana was half-relieved and half-nervous upon mention of Lord Paisley’s name. She turned toward the approaching gentlemen. Her distracted feelings and thoughts must have been evident in her features, as His Lordship’s steps became quicker, and his gaze studied her face questioningly.
Colonel Fitzwilliam smiled and bowed. “Good afternoon, ladies. I hope you do not mind our company?”
“Not at all, Colonel.” Lady Claire smiled. “This is our cousin, Mr. Brooks.”
“How do you do, sir?”
“Good afternoon, my lord. Colonel.” Mr. Brooks bowed. “I have been enjoying the company of these very lovely ladies. It has been a pleasure becoming acquainted with Miss Darcy.”
“Let us walk.” Lord Paisley offered his arm to Georgiana, leading her slightly away from the group that followed behind them.
“Are you all right, my dear?” Lord Paisley asked softly as soon as they began walking.
“I am well.” She nodded. “I am surprised to see you here. I understood you were meeting with my brother.”
“The meeting ended a while ago,” Lord Paisley said. “I knew you were meeting my sisters here and I could not think of a better place to be than in your company.”
She smiled at him.
“And how do you like my cousin?”
“I do not like him at all,” Georgiana said, her smile vanishing at the mention of Mr. Brooks’ name.
“I am very glad to hear that. Your dislike of my cousin is further proof of your excellent understanding, my love.”
“He is a ridiculous man, Julian.”
“I am afraid he was born that way,” Lord Paisley said with a cheerless smile, making Georgiana laugh.
He stared down at her, adoring her with his eyes. “Tell me,” he said in a mixture of amusement and sarcasm. “What did my ridiculous cousin have to say? Did he amuse you with his sense of humor, or did he impress you with his wit and charm?”
“Neither, I am afraid.”
“What is it, Georgiana?” Lord Paisley asked, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Georgiana. “Has he said or done anything untoward?”
“No, but his conversation was not pleasant either. Although he did not mention it, I sense that he knows about us. He talked about you to me the entire time. Is it true that he is your heir?”
“Regrettably, yes,” Lord Paisley nodded, now fully comprehending the reason for Georgiana’s discomfort. “That is if I do not have an heir of my own.”
“But he is completely unworthy.”
“If inheritance was passed down according to a man’s worth and merits, most of the gentlemen in London would lose their inheritance.”
“But, Julian”—unaware of how much her use of his Christian name affected him—“he is shameless and…and mean. He talks of your…”
“Of my death?”
Georgiana shuddered. “Do not speak of it. I cannot bear the thought.”
Touched by her sentiments, his free hand covered hers protectively. “I have no intention of dying anytime in the near future, my darling. I am young and, if I may say so myself, strong. Furthermore, I will not remain a bachelor much longer. I will marry, and my son will inherit my estate and my title.”
“And if you have a daughter instead?” Georgiana asked, feeling the rush of heat to her face at the intimacy of their conversation.
“My wife and I will have the rest of our lives to try for a son.”
Georgiana blushed crimson. “You may find yourself with many daughters,” she cautioned playfully.
“Some hardships I will willingly endure.” Lord Paisley smiled. “So long as they resemble their beautiful mother, both in looks and in sense.”
Georgiana smiled at his compliment.
“I would not have you worrying about my cousin, Georgiana,” Lord Paisley said, his eyes losing some of their amusement. “If his company makes you ill at ease, he will not be permitted near you again.”
“Oh no! It would not do if I were to alienate your cousin.”
Lord Paisley chuckled. “Believe me, my sweet, if, by some miracle, you manage to cause a rift between my cousin and my family, I will be forever indebted to you.”
Georgiana laughed, shaking her head at his jest.
“Oh, no!” Georgiana said, when she turned her head to see the others. “We seem to have lost the others, Julian. We have been so engrossed in our conversation, we must have taken a different lane, for I doubt we could have walked so fast.”
Georgiana looked to him and her heart skipped at his intense gaze.
“I like hearing my name on your lips,” he said, his voice a caress.
She blushed as his eyes traveled to her lips.
“Oh, what a pleasant surprise!” came the unmistakable voice of Lady Sophia, who was approaching them with Viscount Fitzwilliam. Lord Paisley’s face was the picture of annoyance. Georgiana was quicker to mask her shock as well as her disappointment. “My dear Miss Darcy! What are you doing here?”
“Taking a walk, my lady.”
“Unchaperoned?” Lady Sophia asked, shaking her head disapprovingly.
Georgiana’s color rose in indignation. “Are you not doing the same thing, my lady?”
“Your cousin and I are engaged.”
“You are quite right, my lady. You are above reproach.” Lord Paisley smiled. “And since Miss Darcy has done me the greatest honor of entering into a courtship with me, your congratulations would be most welcomed above your censure.”
“A courtship? A courtship!”
“Your excitement for our courtship is touching.”
“But my dear, Miss Darcy,” Lady Sophia said, ignoring Lord Paisley’s amusement. “You are still so young, and you have not had the opportunity to have a full season.”
“It should not take one an entire season to realize a good man’s worth, my lady,” Georgiana said and smiled at Lord Paisley.
“My dear,” Lady Sophia hissed, turning toward her betrothed who was smiling at his young cousin’s love-struck face, “as Miss Darcy’s eldest cousin, you must make your opinion known on the matter.”
“Make my opinion known?” the viscount asked. “I am not Georgiana’s guardian. If Darcy has given his consent to this courtship, who am I to disagree? His Lordship is certainly not wanting in wealth and consequence. If this courtship should lead to an engagement and a marriage, it would be an alliance the Darcys should rejoice in.”
Georgiana could not help but feel all the humiliation at her cousin’s artless words. But feeling His Lordship’s warm hand covering hers, she looked up to find his undeterred look of adoration.
“Should I ever succeed in securing Miss Darcy’s affection,” Lord Paisley said to the viscount and his betrothed, while still holding Georgiana’s gaze, “no one’s delight shall equal mine.”
“I do declare,” Lady Sophia said, “I do not know how my brother will react to the news of your courtship. I believe he will be quite put out for he had every expectation of having his offer accepted.”
“I have never made any promises to Lord Barton, my lady,” Georgiana said with feeling. “And I do not believe it seemly to discuss your brother in his absence. It will do neither of us any credit.”
“Well said, my dear,” the viscount approved. “Oh, and here comes my brother, accompanied by the beautiful Lady Claire.” All attentions were directed toward the rest of their party.
“Well,” Viscount Fitzwilliam said once all the niceties were performed, “it seems you all have been walking for some time. May I invite you all to join us for some refreshments at Gunter’s?”
“Wonderful idea, George.” Colonel Fitzwilliam approved. “Lady Claire had the same notion before we came upon you.”
“It is very kind of you to invite us, Cousin, but Lady Henrietta and I are going to Hatchard’s,” Georgiana said.
“I understand, my dear. You must do as you had planned.”
“I will accompany the ladies, Viscount, and return in the carriage for Lady Claire within the hour,” Lord Paisley said.
“If I may, sir,” Mr. Brooks said, “I believe I will join you.”
Lord Paisley raised an eyebrow at the gentleman’s request. “If you insist, Mr. Brooks. Although I must say I never imagined you would volunteer to carry books.”
The carriage ride was short. The young ladies talked of books while the gentlemen were both quiet; Lord Paisley watched his beloved’s interactions with his sister and Mr. Brooks watched His Lordship with a mixture of curiosity and contempt. Upon their arrival at the bookshop, the gentlemen waited as the ladies browsed. Lady Henrietta soon found herself with several books of interest, while Georgiana found a clerk to inquire about the books she had ordered. She looked through the books, chose three, and waited as he wrapped her purchases.
“I understand congratulations are in order, my lord,” Mr. Brooks said.
“Oh?” Lord Paisley asked, his eyes never leaving Georgiana.
“I understand you are soon to become engaged to the young Miss Darcy.”
Lord Paisley turned toward Mr. Brooks, raising an eyebrow at him, causing the younger man’s smile to vanish. “And how is it that you have come by such information, Mr. Brooks?”
“I was informed by your sister, Lady Henrietta. But you must not be angry with her. Even if she had not told me about it, I am sure that I would have noticed it myself. The affection between you two is obvious.”
“How very astute of you, Brooks.”
“We are both young men, my lord. I believe we understand each other perfectly.”
“Since you understand me so well, Brooks, allow me to make a few things clear. You will show Miss Darcy every possible respect, but you will not bore her to death with your nauseating gallantry nor will you offend her with your self-righteous rant about how life is unfair to you. I would not have you upsetting her.”
“Well, I must say,” Mr. Brooks said indignantly, “I have never been thus insulted in my life.”
“I am very surprised to hear that,” Lord Paisley said, his eyes following Georgiana’s movements. “Knowing what I know of you, I would have thought it would be common place for you to be thus insulted.”
“If we were not related, my lord—”
“Do not allow a mere family relation stand in your way, Mr. Brooks. Indeed, if you must, sever all ties with my family. You certainly do not need to suffer the indignity of being insulted by me.”
“Well, if you would only try not to dismiss me as you do so frequently,” Mr. Brooks said, offering an olive branch.
“I am afraid that is not possible. We are creatures of habit, you see? I cannot help being who I am any more than you can help being who you are.”