Hello again. At the time of this post, I am knee-deep in nothing. HA! You may have thought I’d say I was busy writing – and it is partially true – but to be completely honest, my muse is exhausted. Since September of last year, I have written and published four books. I am well aware there are authors who are prolific writers, alas, I am not one of them. My usual modus operandi is one book per year, but for some reason, ideas bloomed and grew at a rapid pace. Having said that, my last book exceeded all expectations. In the first week of publication, Compromise & Consequence received a coveted, yet unexpected, orange sticker – #1 New Release in Historical Regency Fiction. I am so glad I took a screenshot. Never did expect this and I wish to thank all of you who helped me achieve this goal.
Okay, proud book mama moment is over and today I wish to share an excerpt from Mary. This WIP is book four in my Pride & Prejudice continued… series. In case you wondered, I do have ideas for posts that don’t always push forward my stories as I have disappeared down many a rabbit hole researching entails, the Napoleonic wars and the art of perfume making. One day my discoveries will make their way onto the page for you to read – just not today. 🙂
What’s in a name?
At three and twenty, Miss Mary Bennet is firmly on the shelf and resigned to the life of a spinster. When news arrives that changes the status of her family, she is unprepared for the attention that comes along for the ride. Particularly Colonel Fitzwilliam and his annoying habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Second sons require an heiress.
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, the second son to the Earl of Matlock, has a comfortable life as long as he never marries. To that end, he maintains a polite distance from any young miss who might get the wrong idea. That is until Miss Mary Bennet begins to receive attention from a few eligible young men and he finds he doesn’t like that – not one little bit.
“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to Town every spring for the benefit of the masters.”
“My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.”
Pride and Prejudice
Volume II, Chapter VI
“Elizabeth, have you never wondered why your father hates town so much?” Fitzwilliam Darcy asked his wife while she buttered a light as air croissant.
“No, he does not explain his reasons to anyone, for anything. He has not been to London since after Lydia was born, that I know of.”
“Tell me, what do you think of this article in the paper today?” He laid the latest issue of The Gazette beside her plate, turned to page three.
“Which article?” She picked up the paper and quickly read the headline which heralded a royal celebration slated for the middle of May. Beneath the introduction were two columns filled with names and counties.
“The Palace is desirous of a celebration and, as such, invites all those granted a title or knighted since the turn of the century to attend.”
“What does that have to do with Papa’s hatred of London?” Elizabeth queried, a slight frown furrowing her brow.
“Read the list, my love. It is in alphabetical order.”
Lizzy perused the document a second time. Her eyes widened, her mouth opened, and she began to laugh. She laughed until tears formed and flowed down her cheeks. Will couldn’t help himself; he laughed with her. When their hilarity subsided and she’d ceased to hiccup, she set the paper aside and said, “You mean to tell me Mama has been Lady Bennet since the year of our Lord 1801 and Papa never told her?”
“It appears so.”
“Oh my, what I would give to be a fly on the wall of Papa’s library when Mama finds out her husband is a baron.”
“You know, I always wondered what he meant prior to the morning of our wedding.”
“What was that?”
“While your mother orchestrated who would ride in what carriage after the wedding service, he’d muttered ‘All this to do about nothing. It is almost as bad as St. James’s Court.’ At the time, I thought he was being his usual mercurial self, but his promotion amongst the landed gentry must have been to what he referred.”
“Mama will be beside herself as she precedes Lady Lucas.” She covered her mouth with her fingers. “Oh dear, they’ll never be friends now.”
“Were they ever?”
“They have… I guess you would call it a mutually polite acquaintance.”
“Wait until she realizes you outrank even me,” Darcy teased.
Lizzy rose from her chair and circled behind her husband of three years. She leaned down, wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, and laid her cheek against his.
“We are equals. You are a gentleman and I am a gentleman’s daughter. There is no rank in our house, not unless the Monarch decides to bestow a title upon you, which would be well deserved, but not sought. Fortunately, Kitty as Lady George Kerr outranks Mama. She will help contain the predictable ebullient gloating.”
Darcy brought his hand up to his shoulder and laid it over her small hand.
“I believe a trip to Longbourn is required. Your mother will want to herald the news to all and sundry and will require her well-situated daughters to flank her every side. Are you up to the task?”
Lizzy kissed the top of his head before stepping away, the small bump barely visible beneath her morning dress.
“Fortunately, we are in London, and what is a day’s travel on a good road? Even so, Nanny and I will have our hands full with Bennet and Andrew.”
“You shall manage my love. Your courage always rises when challenged.”
“You know me well.”
At two and twenty, Miss Mary Bennet knew she was considered nearly a spinster. Her youngest sister had married at the age of fifteen – what a story that escapade would make –her eldest sister married on the cusp of two and twenty alongside her other sister who at the time was not even one and twenty. Even Kitty had been swept off her feet at the ripe old age of nineteen. For three long years, she’d watched from the sidelines as her sisters fell in love, married, and moved away.
She knew she was not traditionally ladylike as her other siblings. In her speech, she was too forthright and would rather spend an evening playing the pianoforte to an evening in the company of friends, or heaven forfend, attend a ball. She had a pleasing figure, all her own teeth, and if she had a lick of vanity, it was her thick, beautifully curly, mahogany locks of hair. On more than one occasion, the matronly ladies she sat with at many assemblies kindly informed her she had kind eyes.
Kind eyes? Basset hounds had kind eyes.
Papa finally settled on her a substantial dowry. With all her siblings out from under the eaves of Longbourn, he had the resources to add to the family coffers and she now had a nice tidy sum of four thousand pounds for any man willing to make an offer. And there was the rub. Someone had to make an offer.
If anyone were to catalog all her attributes, they’d wonder how she had gone so long without one single proposal. Without one single kiss. Well, there’d been one when she was just turned fourteen, but she did not count the sloppy slobber as a kiss. Nigel, the cobbler’s son had pressed his fleshy lips against hers and then tried to push his tongue into her mouth, which she’d promptly bit.
He’d never spoken to her again, and frankly, she had not cared. If kissing involved groping hands and tongues shoved into one’s mouth, she did not wish to be kissed again. However, all her sisters seemed to like their husbands kissing them, so maybe Nigel had got it all wrong. She would never know. Mama did not extend any effort to push her into the path of eligible young men, and that all by itself spoke volumes. Even her mother thought her chances were nil.
She hastened her pace upon entering the village of Meryton. No one seemed bothered by the fact that she had walked the mile and a half from Longbourn – alone. No uproar over her being unchaperoned, without a maid or escort. Not even a family footman lurking in the background on the off chance someone might try to compromise her. No, Miss Mary Bennet of Longbourn, third daughter of five, enjoyed the freedom of movement customarily attributed to doddering old spinsters and widows long past looking for another husband.
She was, to put it succinctly, unmarriageable.
“Good afternoon, Miss Bennet. Lovely day, ain’t it?” Mrs. Sheffield greeted her while sweeping the wooden boardwalk outside her shop.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Sheffield. It is a lovely day.”
“Have you read the newspaper today?”
“No, Papa keeps the paper for himself and shares whatever he thinks is newsworthy. Was there something important I should know about?”
“Oh, I’d say there were sumthin’ important. Wait right ‘ere.”
She leaned the broom against the outer wall and disappeared into the store, returning in a few minutes with The Gazette. She handed the paper to Mary and said, “Page Three.”
Mary took the paper from Mrs. Sheffield and opened it to the appropriate page. Emblazoned in bold type across the top was the heading: ‘HRH, the Prince Regent Celebrates End of War.’ The article started by saying HRH the Prince Regent wished to celebrate the end of the Peninsular War with an elaborate garden party for every person to whom he or his father bestowed titles upon or knighted, followed by a quick blurb of where and when the party would be held. A list of all invitees marched down the page in two straight lines.
“I fail to see how a party the Prince Regent is holding affects me, Mrs. Sheffield.”
“I suggest you look at the guest list. The names be in alphabetical order.”
To humor the kind woman, Mary began reading, gasping out loud when she came to the letter ‘B.’ Mrs. Sheffield began to cackle at the look on her face.
“Told you it were important.”
“Excuse me.” Her errand forgotten; Mary handed the paper back to Mrs. Sheffield. “I must return home.”
With that, she spun on her heel and walked quickly down the street. Once out of sight of the village she practically ran all the way to Longbourn. When she arrived, out of breath, the house was in a state of uproar.
“Mr. Bennet. What are we to do?”
The strident tones of her mother’s voice were easily heard through the open window of Papa’s library. Her father’s reply was not discernable, and it wasn’t until she entered the vestibule that more of their conversation filtered out.
“I am forty-two years of age. How can I go through this now?” Mama’s voice had escalated to near-hysterical proportions.
The door to the study opened and upon seeing Mary, Papa beckoned her inside. With a fair bit of apprehension, she did as her father bade and joined him and Mama. She seated herself in one of the wingback chairs near the fireplace, and, in preparation to act surprised when he shared the news, waited with hands clasped neatly on her lap. Mama paced in front of the window while Papa settled at his desk with a deep sigh.
“Your mother and I have some news and we would appreciate you keeping this knowledge to yourself for a small amount of time.”
“Everyone will know about it soon enough,” Mama cried out and threw herself into the closest chair, a flimsy lace handkerchief pressed to her forehead.
Mary did not know if she should enlighten them with the knowledge that the village of Meryton was already apprised of their good fortune. Deciding to cross that bridge when it arose, she pretended she had no foreknowledge and said, “I shall be the soul of discretion.”
“Thank you, Mary. You will not have to carry this secret for too long because, as your mother stated, the news will become evident in fairly short order.”
At that, her mother wailed again and bolted for the door, flinging it open before rushing up the stairs. Startled, Mary watched, her mouth open.
“Do not worry, Mary,” Papa said. “Your mother is only casting up her accounts because of the babe.”