Excerpt - Longbourn's Angels

Hello, my friends. Can you believe almost half of this year is in our rearview mirror? I, for one, am glad some of it is in the past. This year has been interesting. The Barr family has good news. Mr. B's cancer treatment was successful. His numbers look very, very good and the next update will be in about another five months. If things stay status quo, he will only have to go in every six months for the next two years, then it will be slated back to annual visits. (Whew) Also, he had surgery only three weeks ago, and everything has healed nicely with his first check-up is this week. Then... THEN... we move on the 29th. Yikes!

Needless to say, my writing has been in spits and spurts because of packing, visits to the building site, picking floor, lighting, tile, fixtures... etc., etc. Having said that, I continue to work on Longbourn's Angels. The main characters are ODC (Darcy & Elizabeth), but I am weaving in small vignettes of Jane and their older twin brothers. Yes, you heard me. Twin brothers. I toyed with making them triplets with Elizabeth, but I like having them as older brothers, looking out for their younger sisters. Especially when a proud man has the temerity to insult our dear Lizzy at the Meryton Assembly.

This time, I have not written the Bennets with titled family, however, because Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's first children were male, Mr. Bennet has taken better care of his estate and so they are a little wealthier than in the original story. They also own Netherfield Park. It tickles my fancy to have the Bingleys unknowingly pay rent to the family Caroline Bingley loves to disparage. Also, the two sons have attended Eton and Cambridge, and have high-placed friends.

Below is a small snippet. In this scene, Gabriel and Elizabeth have traveled to Netherfield Park to bring Jane home. As in canon, she had ridden to Netherfield on horseback, got wet, and became sick. Alas, she does not stay longer than one night before her big brother and younger sister come to hie her home to Longbourn. What you will read is what happened between Gabe and Mr. Darcy once Caroline escorts Elizabeth up to the room where Jane spent the night.

***

The door had barely closed before a footman poured a cup of coffee for Gabriel. With a word of thanks, he accepted the cup and settled back in the chair he had chosen, directly across the table from Mr. Darcy and to the left of Mr. Bingley. He cast a quick glance at Mr. Hurst, who paid them no mind, concentrating solely on his overflowing plate of food. Gabe briefly wondered where Mrs. Hurst was, but quickly dismissed her from his thoughts.

“Was there any damage to Longbourn from the storm?” Mr. Darcy asked.

“Not that I could tell. My father and brother will ride the estate later this morning and assess the damage.”

“How large is your father’s estate? I have been riding the border between Netherfield and Longbourn, and have come to realize it is grander than what we were led to believe.”

Gabe assessed Mr. Darcy. Arrogant the man might be, but he was a landowner of a huge tract of land in Derbyshire and had rightly decided the Bennets were more than what met the eye.

“Longbourn, while not as extensive as Pemberley, is comfortable. Our family has owned their land since the Plantagenets.”

“I say, the Bennet history is as rich and deep as yours, Darcy,” Bingley exclaimed. “Although, I do recall you saying your forefathers arrived with William the Conqueror.”

“That is true.” Darcy conceded with a slight nod of his head. “My family does have deep ties to our lands.”

“My friend Peter tells me Pemberley is quite the sight to see.” Gabe watched the master of that great house carefully. “He opines it might be more impressive than Chatsworth.”

“I will own I am proud of Pemberley,” Darcy conceded. “However, it is not as grand as Devonshire’s home. Few are.”

“Peter’s opinion may be skewed by the fact he was not particularly fond of the late duke.”

“Have you met his grace?” Bingley asked, his mouth dropping open in surprise.

“My brother and I, along with Peter, attended university with his son, Hart and were invited to a house party they hosted last summer.”

“You have mentioned Peter a few times. Is he another minor landowner here in Hertfordshire like your father?”

Gabe longed to knock the superior look from Darcy’s smug face. His father was no minor landowner. The boundary of Longbourn estate encompassed approximately eight miles at its widest point, not including Netherfield Park.

“Peter’s main estate is in Derbyshire, although he owns property near Meryton, which his family uses for hunting parties and a quick summer escape from town.” Gabe did not tell the gentleman the estate he referred to was known as Stoke House.

 “You said he owns land in Derbyshire?”

“I did.” Gabe decided to drop crumbs of information, wanting to see how far down the path they’d follow before realizing the truth. “Quite close to Pemberley, to be more exact.”

Let us see what Mr. Darcy makes of that. Gabe suppressed a grin. He could tell Darcy was beginning to put the pieces together, confirmed by his next question.

“Would your friend, by chance, be Peter Stokes?”

“He would, indeed.”

From the blank expression on the faces of Bingley and Hurst, neither of them knew who Peter Stokes was. But Darcy did, and Gabe held that man’s gaze, knowing an adjustment in attitude would soon follow. It was the way of the ton. They curried favor with those who held titles, and the Earl of Thedford was a powerful friend.

“How is it your family knows the Stokes?”

“As I said, he owns property close to Meryton and is a close friend of me and my brother. We practically grew up together. Unsurprisingly, our fathers struck up a friendship and, to this day, continue to try and outmaneuver each other in chess.”

It was a small movement, but Darcy’s left eyebrow twitched. Better and better. Now the great man knew of their close connection to the Marquis of Dorchester, Peter being his heir. Gabe heard movement in the hall and knew Miss Bingley would be joining them in a few minutes. He looked at Darcy, allowing his disdain for the man to show completely on his face.

“Do you wish now you had given consequence to a young lady who was not slighted by other men but had sat out two sets because there were not enough gentlemen to dance with?”

My, oh my, how I love humble pie.


 

New Release! In Essentials


Available now in Kindle Unlimited.

Bridgeport Family Tree




In Essentials - Excerpt

First, I apologize for the lack of posting regularly. The Barr household is in such disarray, I am thankful if I remember to put on pants... uh oh... will be right back............ okey dokey. Got my pants on, now we can carry on as though I am normal ;) Hubby and I are buying a new condo. Egad. What were we thinking, in the middle of a pandemic? I mean, why not? Supplies are hard to come by, everything is backlogged, we cannot go to design centers to look at flooring, lights, paint colors. Everything is virtual. Sure! Let's buy a new house! I am not even going to touch the fact we have to sell our own home in the meantime.

Head - desk.

In the midst of all this, my husband got some devasting news and his treatment starts next week. Every second day for ten days. We will know if it has been successful by June - Just in time to move into the new condo. Still, hubby insists I keep writing, but it is sooo hard to write about love when the one you love is hurting. Needless to say, this has pushed back my anticipated publishing date. I only have about four chapters to go, but my heart is just not in it at this time. I am sure you understand.

EXCERPT:

When breakfast was over, Jane and Elizabeth were joined upstairs by Mr. Bingley’s sisters. Although they did not advance very far into the room, quitting the room when Mr. Jones, the local apothecary arrived, Elizabeth was touched by their affection and solicitude toward her sister. Having examined his patient, Mr. Jones said, as might be supposed, that Jane had caught a violent cold and they must endeavor to get the better of it. To that end, he advised her to return to bed and promised her some draughts. Miss Bingley reappeared when the clock struck three.

“I came to inquire how Miss Bennet is doing and ask if you want me to call for the chaise. It is far too late in the day to walk safely back to Longbourn.”

“Thank you for your kind concern and offer, Miss Bingley.” Elizabeth looked down at Jane with some concern. “I am worried about her fever, yet it is getting late and I must return home.”

“Please, do not leave me, Lizzy.”

Jane began to cough upon speaking and had to be helped into a sitting position to drink a bit of water. Miss Bingley approached the bed and took Jane’s hand in hers.

“Do not worry, Miss Bennet. I will have Mrs. Nichols prepare a room for your sister. We all want you to return to the pink of health.”

Elizabeth could not help but smile when Jane’s whole body relaxed into the softness of the bed at the promise her beloved sister would not be leaving her side. She then turned her attention to Miss Bingley.

“If I may, I will write a note to my father informing him of my wish to remain with Jane and have him send a supply of clothes for our stay.”

“Of course, Miss Eliza. I shall have a footman attend you directly.”

She spent the rest of the afternoon tending Jane and around six-thirty Elizabeth went downstairs for dinner. Although she spent some time in the drawingroom after the meal, she was too distracted to do much more than read, to the dismay of Miss Bingley and her sister. At their uncalled-for censure, and before she said words she could not return to her mouth, she bid them goodnight.

She passed the chief of the night in her sister’s room, and in the morning was secretly pleased by the inquiry which she very early received from Mr. Bingley via a housemaid.

“Please tell Mr. Bingley my sister is better than yesterday, yet still feeling unwell.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the housemaid said with a polite curtsy before exiting the room.

Not more than ten minutes passed before there was a knock on the door and Elizabeth opened it to find Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.

“How is our patient today, Miss Eliza?”

All three ladies looked toward the bed where Jane lay flushed, yet pale.

“As you see, she is not much better. If you do not mind, I would like to send a note to Longbourn and ask my father attend to judge for himself whether Jane should return home or trespass on your kindness for another day.”

The note was immediately dispatched, and its contents quickly complied with, surprisingly, by Mrs. Bennet. Accompanied by her two youngest, they showed up at the front door before the Netherfield party had even begun breaking their fast. After being taken upstairs, Mrs. Bennet had a brief conversation with the apothecary, clucked and fussed over Jane for a bit, then completely ignored her and Elizabeth to gossip with her daughters.

Could not Lydia and Kitty have remained at home? There was no reason for them to attend with Mrs. Bennet and then behave as if they were in their own drawingroom. Elizabeth wondered why her father allowed Mrs. Bennet to attend in his stead, especially when Jane would never get much rest with the three of them chattering like chipmunks.

No more than a half-hour passed when Miss Bingley, having finished her morning meal, stopped by again and invited them to attend her in the breakfast parlor for a cup of tea. Upon receiving said invitation, all of them, save Jane, made their way downstairs, whereupon, Bingley met them with hopes that Miss Bennet was not worse than expected.

“She is a great deal too ill to be moved,” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed with a determined lift of her chin, a reflexive movement Elizabeth recognized when her stepmother was stretching the truth for her own means. “Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her and we must trespass a little longer on your kindness.”

As it seemed Mr. Bingley was just as desirous as Mrs. Bennet for Jane to remain at Netherfield, nothing more was said on the matter. For one brief moment, Elizabeth hoped Mrs. Bennet would not prove how vulgar she was, nor do anything to foil Jane’s chance at gaining Mr. Bingley’s unwavering devotion. But…, she opened her mouth and began rhapsodizing about Jane’s beauty and how men sought her attention.

“When Jane was only fifteen, there was a gentleman so much in love with her, I was sure he would make an offer. But, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”

“And so ended his affection, which Jane had never returned as her heart had not been engaged,” Elizabeth said impatiently.

What Mrs. Bennet failed to inform the captive audience was Jane’s would-be suitor had been a gentleman in his late forties. Upon discovery of this relevant fact, Papa had been absolutely furious his wife had pushed Jane toward a man older than himself. Elizabeth knew if her sister were in the room right now, her cheeks would be scalded red with mortification at this piece of gossip being re-visited.

A somewhat awkward pause ensued, causing Elizabeth to tremble at the thought of Mrs. Bennet exposing herself again, but to her surprise and everlasting gratitude, Mrs. Bennet repeated her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy. She then called for their carriage to be ordered ready and while waiting, Lydia brought up the fact Mr. Bingley had promised to host a ball, adding it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not keep his word. His response provoked a delighted reaction from all the ladies. The exception being Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.

“I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement and you shall name the very day of the ball. Although we will wait until your sister has recovered, you would not wish to be dancing while she is ill.”

Lydia, having gotten her way was all smiling, with declarations that of course, they would wait until Jane was healthy and a delay would mean some of the officers from the ____shire Militia were sure to attend, guaranteeing her a night full of dancing.

With her stepmother and her daughters safely away, Elizabeth returned to Jane’s side to await the arrival of their trunks. She wondered why Mrs. Bennet had not brought them with her, but a whispered comment from Kitty prior to their departure let her know Mrs. Bennet had intercepted Elizabeth’s notes to her husband and came to Netherfield before he knew what was happening. As such, there had been no time to pack anything.

Not even an hour had passed when the sound of another carriage drew Elizabeth to the window. Her surprise was great when she witnessed her father exit the vehicle and mount the stairs to the main entrance, taking them two at a time. Soon he was shown into Jane’s room, still wearing his greatcoat, one of Mrs. Bennet’s capes draped over his arm.

“Come, Jane. We are to Longbourn,” Papa said as soon as he entered the room.

“But Mother and Mr. Jones said I was too ill to be moved,” Jane croaked out from beneath the pile of covers.

“You have a cold, and as Mrs. Bennet said upon receipt of your note yesterday morning, nobody dies from a trifling cold. I have brought with me her fur-lined cape, and there are no less than eight warming bricks in the carriage along with several more blankets. ‘Tis but five miles by road and you can rest your head on my shoulder as you did as a child if you become too fatigued.”

“Papa, while I get Jane dressed, could you have Mrs. Nicholls warm up a few of those bricks. They will have cooled some before we are ready to depart.”

“Of course, Lizzy. Have a footman come find me when you are ready. The carriage is standing by in front of the house.”

With that, her father left the room and Elizabeth heard him hail a footman to ask if Mrs. Nicholls was in her office. With a soft smile, she shook her head at her father’s impertinence. She knew he would have no qualms about seeking out the housekeeper in her own domain. He was quite familiar with Netherfield and its servants as his great friend, Lord Dunsmuir had been the last tenant prior to Mr. Bingley.

She turned her attention back to getting Jane fully dressed. There was nothing to pack, as Papa had shown up instead of the expected trunk full of necessities. She worried over Jane’s continuing fever, but it was not raging and her cough, though deep, did not steal her breath in any manner. Sleeping in her own bed and making good use of Hill’s homemade draughts were just the thing to bring her sister back to perfect health.

Although she had reclined on the bed unable to keep her eyes open, Jane was finally ready. Elizabeth opened the door and spied the footman, who had waited so patiently outside the door. She bade him fetch her father and coaxed Jane into a sitting position. They were ready to return home and although she desired to leave as quick as possible, she did not relish the uproar that would ensue upon their return.

However, such was Papa’s cross to bear. Not hers.



Excerpt ~ In Essentials

I know Miss Lydia is from Pride & Prejudice, not Emma, but she is one of the main reasons Mr. Darcy has set his eye on Miss Elizabeth - her vulgar relations.

Now, onto today's excerpt from In Essentials:

~~~

Less than a week later, Darcy could scarce contain the smug satisfaction which threatened to crack his stoic façade. Fortune could not have smiled on him brighter, for only yesterday Miss Bingley had invited Miss Bennet to attend her and Louisa. He was not incognizant to the fact she issued the invitation for a time when the gentlemen of the house would not be available as they had previous plans to dine with Colonel Forster and the officers of the ____shire Militia.

Of that saliant fact, Mrs. Bennet must have been aware, because she sent her daughter to Netherfield on the back of a horse when it was apparent to anyone with a brain that a storm was brewing. Due to the mother’s obvious machinations, Jane Bennet had fallen ill whilst sipping her soup – according to a tittering Miss Bingley – having endured the last mile in driving rain. She now lay upstairs, suffering the effects of a severe cold. As much as he felt bad for the poor girl, whose only guilt was to follow her vulgar mother’s directions, the end result was beyond anything he could have imagined, for that very morning, as he and the others broke their fast, his sought-after prize was shown into the breakfast parlor. He could not have planned this better himself. He firmly believed that fortune favors the bold and he would make this circumstance work to his advantage.

He then almost chuckled outright at the reaction of Miss Bingley and her sister, Mrs. Hurst. Elizabeth’s sudden appearance created a great deal of surprise in the two ladies when their butler announced, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Miss Eliza!” Miss Bingley had declared. “Did you walk all the way to Netherfield?”

“I did.”

“Why, that is over five miles!”

“Three, if you cut through fields.”

“Would you care for some tea, Miss Elizabeth?” Bingley offered, now that the shock of seeing his angel’s sister so early in the morning had worn off.

“No thank you, I came only for Jane. How is my sister?”

“Sadly, Miss Bennet slept ill and though she was awake when I last looked in on her, she was still very feverish and not well enough to leave her room,” Miss Bingley said and Darcy was surprised at the amount of concern in her voice. Caroline Bingley was not known for having any compassion for anyone, save herself. “I can take you to her now, if you so desire.”

“If it is no inconvenience, I would appreciate seeing her right away.”

Both ladies quit the room and Darcy resumed his seat, thinking how fresh Miss Elizabeth appeared, her cheeks aglow from the exercise, her eyes brightened by the exercise.

“Damn fine girl, that Miss Elizabeth,” Hurst muttered before stuffing another sausage into his mouth.

“What was that, Hurst?” Darcy asked, noting how Louisa Hurst gaped at her husband, for he rarely spoke.

“She is a damn fine girl to walk all that way just to enquire about her sister’s welfare.”

“Reginald,” Mrs. Hurst scolded. “You do not know what you are saying.”

Hurst twisted in his seat and speared his wife in place with a withering glare.

“Could you ever, in your lifetime, imagine your sister walking three miles across muddy fields to look after you?” When Mrs. Hurst only sniffed a response, he continued. “I thought not. You realize that young lady must have left the house over two hours ago to traverse the distance? That is a prime example of loyalty and it is hard won.”

He turned back to his breakfast and back to ignoring his wife who remained seated beside him with her lips pursed and a scowl marring her face.

Darcy would have loved nothing better than to keep his mind more agreeably engaged, meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman could bestow, but he had some unpleasant business to attend. For that reason, he excused himself and made his way to his suite of rooms to compose and post replies in response to not one, but two express posts received earlier that morning. One from his uncle the earl, the other from his aunt in Kent. Both offensive in nature.

His uncle had written: 

Darcy! 

What the deuce are you doing in Hertfordshire? You have offended not only me, but also the Earl Tewkesbury, whose daughter expected you to open the ball with her. I have assured him you are on the hunt for a wife and that his daughter will do nicely. I know her one tooth is a bit crooked, but if you close your eyes whilst in the marriage bed, she has sixty thousand other reasons for you to make her an offer. 

I managed to soothe his ruffled feathers and promised him you would attend the theater next week. Do not fail me in this, Darcy. As the head of the Fitzwilliam family, I demand you make an advantageous marriage and Tewkesbury’s daughter fits the bill. He is a great ally in the House of Lords and I do not wish him for an enemy. 

I expect you back in London before the week is out. 

Yours, &c. 

To which he replied: 

Uncle Robert, 

Thank you for your kind concern over my marital felicity. You are quite correct in the fact that Earl Tewkesbury is not someone you wish for as an enemy. Therefore, you should offer to help him find some other hapless fool, as I will not be performing that service. You may be head of the Fitzwilliam family, but I am the head of the Darcy family. You hold no sway over my decisions with regard to Pemberley, or Georgiana. Also, I have more wealth than I know what to do with and a further sixty thousand pounds is not incentive enough to wed any woman, especially one whose tooth pushes out her lip. Tell her father to use some of her dowry to have a competent doctor remove it.

 Yours, &c. 

The other letter had been just as offensive. His lady aunt had written: 

Fitzwilliam, 

A report of an alarming nature has reached me that you are in the house of that abominable son of a tradesman – in Hertfordshire of all places. What are you thinking? How could you degrade yourself so thoroughly? Once you are married to Anne, you will cut all ties with that family. Will the shades of Rosings Park and Pemberley be thus polluted by their atrocious company? I think not. 

I fully expect you to quit their sphere and make your way to Kent. I anticipate your company for the Yuletide season as a wedding on Christmas Eve suits Anne quite well. She will look lovely in red velvet and I will have her gown trimmed with white fur. My rector has been apprised that you will be arriving shortly and has the marriage license prepared. All that is required is your presence and signature. Because it is a common license, the banns do not have to be read. 

I await your arrival,

Yours, &c. 

To his aunt, he wrote: 

Aunt Catherine, 

As stated more times than I care to remember, I will not marry Anne. She can barely sit in a chair for a whole meal without sagging like a limp ribbon and has to be helped up and down the stairs. What makes you think she could remain upright for the length of a marriage ceremony, let alone survive the rigors that come with fully being a wife and possibly falling with child? It would be her death sentence and I refuse to do that to her. I hold her in high regard – as a cousin – and nothing more. 

I demand you stop spreading the lie that an engagement you apparently brokered with my dear mother has been in existence since my cousin and I were in our cradles. Highly improbable, as I am four years older than Anne. My mother never once spoke of such an arrangement. My good father, before his untimely demise, also put in writing that any such demands about this were to be disregarded. No betrothal settlements have ever been authorized or signed by him, or myself. 

Desist with these outrageous demands and have your parson tear up the license. I shall not arrive at Rosings until my scheduled time next Easter.

Yours, &c. 

He affixed his seal to the letters and sent them regular post, forcing his officious relatives to stew a bit longer awaiting his response.

~~~

Ringing in the New Year


As I write this post I find myself gazing out the window onto our front yard, covered by the lightest dusting of snow. You may think this strange that I notice this, but I live in Canada. I should have a few feet of snow on the ground by now. I will not complain. This means we do not have to shovel (the royal we - hubby does the job) out the drive. We had a green Christmas as well.

Our family remains untouched by the dreaded virus, although I am not surprised. My husband and I are virtual hermits. We love our home. We enjoy each other's company (after 40+ years I think that is quite the accomplishment), and we plot and plan what we will do when we win the lottery. Yup - still dreaming.

And so, Happy New Year my friends. May 2022 be a safe and blessed year and I wish you nothing but joy.



Excerpt: In Essentials


'Tis Christmas Eve and I thought I would, as an early Christmas present, give you the next scene from In Essentials. This title is subject to change. The story is morphing into a whole new trajectory, and I am not sad about that one little bit.

And so, here is the next scene. As always, this is a rough draft (read that as no editor has looked at it yet) and my beta reader (bless her heart) has taken a run through it. I hope you enjoy.

~~~

If he weren’t so focused on his decision to marry Elizabeth Bennet come hell or high water, the squeals and guffaws that practically flew out of the mouths of her sisters would have had him retreating to London faster than George Wickham ran from creditors. He had to admit, he was astounded that the parents of these hoydens seemed completely oblivious to their behavior. With careful observation, he also noted their neighbor’s goodwill was stretched thin.

Although he held no tender regard for the woman he’d chosen to marry, he reasoned she would thank him when he swept her away from these environs and set her up at Pemberley. It would make the consummation of their marriage flow a little smoother if she were grateful and wanted to please him.

She returned from the card room and the dejected slope of her shoulders informed him faster than words that the father could not be bothered to take his unruly daughters in hand. Their lack of grace was to Darcy’s advantage, but he had to admit he felt some sympathy for Miss Elizabeth’s plight. She tried so hard to curb their behavior, showing a keen intelligence he was beginning to suspect she hid from others. Not that it mattered, other than the fact these traits would carry down to their children and he knew his sons would have an excellent start in life.

Elizabeth moved further into the room and rejoined her good friend, Miss Lucas. Soon, tables and chairs were pushed aside and four couples formed lines to begin dancing. The pursing of Lady Lucas’s lips was a clear indication that she was not pleased with this deviation from her planned entertainment for the evening and as she made her way toward the matriarch of the Bennet family, he wondered how Mrs. Bennet would react to open censure from her host.

Several things happened separate, yet simultaneous. As Lady Lucas bore down on Mrs. Bennet, Sir William Lucas approached Miss Mary and closed the lid to the piano. With a slight blush, the young lady rose to her feet and made her way to the far side of the room. The two impertinent misses, standing opposite officers from the ____shire Militia, realized no music was coming forth and turned in tandem to call out to their sister to play, rushing to the pianoforte when they saw their sister quit the instrument.

The youngest had the temerity to actually stomp her feet when Sir Lucas informed her there would be no dancing this evening. In a whirl of skirts, she ran to her mother’s side, reaching her the exact moment as Lady Lucas.

“Mama!” she cried out the same time Lady Lucas said, “Mrs. Bennet, I must have a word with you.”

While the drama unfolded to the unholy glee of Miss Bingley and her sister, his gaze skimmed the room to locate Miss Elizabeth and what he saw stirred some compassion. Pale beyond reason, mouth slightly agape as her family sank even further in the estimation of their neighbors, she stood with her friend Miss Lucas. Elizabeth and her sister Jane were the epitome of grace and good manners. For the life of him, he could not reason why the others were so out of touch with what was accepted and what was abhorred. For a brief minute, he wondered if the two eldest were the result of a previous marriage. There was no other explanation for the disparity between the sister’s base natures.

“Mrs. Bennet, I ask that you take Lydia and Kitty back to Longbourn and leave them there.” Lady Lucas said in a firm voice. “They are no longer welcome at Lucas Lodge. Not until they behave like proper young ladies.”

“I have never been so offended, Sarah Lucas!” Mrs. Bennet declared as she rose to her feet. “You have always been jealous of me and my good luck.”

“Fanny Bennet, I do not envy you anything. Your two youngest daughters are ill-mannered and far too young to be out in society.”

“They are high spirited, that is all.”

“Look around Mrs. Bennet. Do you see any other girls here under the age of eighteen? No one else has pushed their daughters out as early as you. They are not ready. They behave like harridans.”

“You only say that because your daughters are not handsome like my Lydia.”

By this time, Mr. Bennet had finally emerged from the card room.

“Lady Lucas, may I ask what has caused all the uproar?” he asked as he came alongside his wife.

“Catherine and Lydia decided they wished to dance and pushed aside all of my tables and chairs in order to have their entertainment.”

Mr. Bennet looked to the youngest who remained by her mother’s side, her bottom lip protruding in a determined pout.

“Lydia? Is this true?”

“Papa, it is so boring here,” she said with another small stomp of her foot. “They only want to play whist or euchre, and we want to dance!”

Mr. Bennet turned his attention back to Lady Lucas, and Sir William who had also joined them.

“My apologies, Sir William and Lady Lucas. I shall ensure they do not repeat this type of behavior again and will take them home to Longbourn immediately.” When his wife started to protest, he held up his hand and speared her in place with an angry glare. “Not one word until we are home, Mrs. Bennet. Bid your friends good evening and gather your things. We are going home.”

“Oh, but Lydia—”

“What part of not one word did you not understand?” He asked his wife before turning to the troublemaker. “We will speak of this further at home, Lydia. You and Kitty will wait for me by the front door.”

As Mrs. Bennet and her two youngest left the room and the tables and chairs were placed in their original setting, Mr. Bennet approached Elizabeth.

“I will send the carriage back for you and Jane. There is no need for you to suffer through the crying and gnashing of teeth that is sure to occur. I am positive we will receive an express from their aunt, telling us their cries of woe reached them in London before the night is over.”

“Jane and I should leave as well.”

“No, Lizzy. Your sisters need to see that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. You and Jane staying here will reinforce the lesson I should have taught them a long time ago.”

He patted his daughter’s hand, gave Darcy a polite nod, and made his way out of the room. Elizabeth watched him leave then searched out her sister. Jane had already started across the room, followed by Bingley.

“I could not hear everything that happened from where I was sitting.”

“I will tell you all when we get home. Papa is sending the carriage back for us.”

“We should go home with them, Lizzy. It is not right that we remain here when they have upset our hosts so decidedly.”

“I agree. Are you up for a walk after I tender our apologies to Lady Lucas?”

“I only brought house slippers. I cannot walk that far a distance in them.”

“Ladies,” Darcy interrupted them. “May I offer the use of my carriage? This way, your father can make his point with your sisters and you may still arrive home in safety.”

“If it would not be an inconvenience, Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth and I thank you for your consideration. Your kindness is appreciated.”

Darcy felt his left eyebrow rise at the number of words that flowed from Miss Bennet’s mouth. It made him realize her calm façade very likely hid a shy personality. His carefully constructed view of one-half of the Bennet family was undergoing a shift and he wasn’t sure if he was at all pleased by this. He needed them to all be vulgar and uncouth.

There you have it. He is starting to see their goodness, but is it too late for what he has planned?



 

#NaNoUpdate - November 28


Two days from the finish line and I now know I will not reach my goal of fifty thousand words. The minute I had to wear my moisture gloves for more than a week, I knew this would happen. Though disappointed, I am glad I got some words down on the two WIPs which have been dancing through my head this past month. I even got in some writing yesterday despite the fact the whole family descended for my husband's birthday. After forty years I finally got to sing him that Beatles song - 'When I'm 64'

Today's excerpt continues with In Essentials. As always, this is a first draft (no editing) and as such could change greatly before publishing.

~~~

Once again, Elizabeth found her voice had deserted her. Beside her walked Mr. Darcy and she was grateful for her bonnet. As she came only to his shoulder, she knew the brim of her hat hid her face and the slew of blushes that refused to abate no matter how much she scolded her inner self.

“Come, Miss Elizabeth. We must have some conversation.”

Startled by his flirtatious tone, she glanced up to find those azure eyes perusing her face. Flustered, she looked straight ahead and marshaled her thoughts into some semblance of order.

“Pray, Mr. Darcy, what topic would you care to discuss?”

“I wish to know more about you. What is your preferred activity on beautiful sunny days such as this?”

Flattered by his willingness to learn more about her, she smiled and said, “When the weather holds, you can find me on the path to our highest point of land. We call it Oakham Mount. Compared to the craggy peaks of Derbyshire, you would consider it a mere bump in the land, but I do not care. The view from there, especially first thing in the morning is glorious.”

“I would be pleased to visit this famous hill. Every shire has its own unique beauty, although I must say I am quite prejudiced to my home, Pemberley, and the surrounding peaks of Derbyshire.”

“Is that the name of your estate? Pemberley?”

“Aye, it has been in our family since the Norman invasion.”

“Then your house must have many tales to tell, with all the history that has passed through and lived between the walls.”

“We have had a few rascals in our family, but for the most part my ancestors are honorable and proud.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.”

“What of yourself, Miss Elizabeth?”

“As I said, our family has lived within Longbourn village for six generations, although a Bennet has been on this land since the times of the Plantagenets. It was my great, great, great… oh, there are too many greats to count, but my great grandfather, many times removed, built the house we live in now.”

“Your estate is called Longbourn village?”

Elizabeth could not help herself, she laughed.

“I know we are only a mile from the market town of Meryton, but we have a thriving community of our own. We have our own chapel, butcher, and baker. A blacksmith and the apothecary took up residence in our little village over ten years ago. We only attend Meryton to visit the milliner and browse the book store.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes and she wondered if he was impressed with the longevity of her family line. The Bennets may not be wealthy in the physical sense but their roots grew deep in Hertfordshire soil. It was a shame her parents were unable to birth a son. With the estate entailed to a distant cousin, the last of the Bennets would be forced to leave the land they had lived on since the thirteenth century.

“Tell me of your family, Mr. Darcy,” she said to restart their conversation.

“There is not much to tell, my family is small compared to yours. Both my parents are gone, leaving only me and my younger sister.” He paused as she murmured her condolences. “My father’s brother lives fifty miles away. I am grateful he is so close.”

She was surprised at his view of the distance.

“Fifty miles! You think that as close?”

“What is fifty miles of good road?”

“London is only about twenty miles from our home and yet we see our aunt and uncle no more than once or twice a year.”

“I would presume, because we are so isolated in Derbyshire, that we make more of an effort to visit family and friends.”

“Jane and I have had the pleasure of staying at our uncle's house in London. My sister usually goes back to town with them after Christmas and returns home around Easter, and I attend them for a portion of the summer and early fall." They walked in silence for a bit, then she ventured to continue the conversation. "And of your mother’s side? Are you close with them?”

She felt his arm tense at her question and immediately felt remorse over her query.

“My mother’s maternal grandfather still lives, although he is well into his seventh decade. There is a good sprinkling of uncles and cousins from that family, however, they love their country estates and rarely come to town. Her brother lives in London and her sister resides in Kent.”

“I have caught you out, Mr. Darcy.”

Not only did his arm stiffen further from her teasing remark but he came to a complete stop.

“What do you mean?”

She shivered at the dark tone of his voice and dared to look up. His brow was furrowed, his eyebrows forming one dark slash above those compelling eyes.

“Nothing bad,” she hastened to assure him. “It is only that your family is not as small as you led me to believe. It seems I shall have to keep my eye on you, sir. What other secrets do you hide behind that charming smile?”

With gentle pressure on her arm, he encouraged her to begin walking again.

“I do have secrets, Miss Elizabeth, but I can tell you, with impunity, I abhor deceit of any kind and if I can lay bare the truth without hurting someone in the telling, I follow that route.”

“That is an admirable trait, although I understand there are times when it is wise to not blurt out the truth of every matter.”

“I am glad you hold this view on the matter.”

Mr. Darcy’s voice conveyed a sense of quiet, yet smug satisfaction. Because she did not know the man from Derbyshire very well, she shrugged it off, determined to enjoy the remainder of their walk.

A few days later, all the principal families gathered at Lucas Lodge for an evening’s entertainment of games and cards.

“Mr. Darcy continues to show marked attention to you.”

Elizabeth and her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas were huddled together waiting for the signal to start the first game, which she had been informed would be Consequence. The Netherfield party, as per usual, had shown up nearly a half-hour later than everyone else and while Mr. Bingley had trotted straight to Jane’s side, Mr. Darcy, Miss Bingley, along with Mr. and Mrs. Hurst stayed cloistered near the entrance.

“I assure you, he does not. When Mr. Bingley comes to Longbourn to see our fair Jane, Mama throws me into his company. I am tasked to keep him occupied while the two love birds become better acquainted.”

“He may keep all of Meryton at bay, but I assure you, his eyes follow your every move.”

“Truly, Charlotte. I have not caught his fancy. He is destined to marry someone with great wealth and connections. He would never stoop so low as to marry a poor country squire’s daughter.”

“You are the only lady, outside his party, that he has danced with.”

“I know his friend, Mr. Bingley, badgered him into dancing with me that night at the Assembly. I myself heard their conversation about the matter.”

“Protest all you want. I stand by my observations as solidly as Mr. Darcy stands against the wall.”

“He does favor them, does he not?” The two young ladies stifled their discreet giggles behind convenient fans. “Papa said the other day if a great wind ever beset Longbourn, we were to all gather around Mr. Darcy. Because of his height and build, he would hold up at least one wall of the house.”

Their giggles erupted into chortles. Suddenly, Charlotte straightened fully, and from behind her fan, she whispered a word of caution.

“He comes this way.”

Elizabeth blamed the feeling of awareness, which crackled up and down her body, from Charlotte’s warning. It was not as though she could actually feel his presence behind her. That was a phenomenon found only in penny romance novels. Gathering her courage, she turned to face him.

“Miss Lucas. Miss Elizabeth.” He gave them both a polite bow of greeting.

At that exact moment, Lydia and Kitty pushed by them and he stepped closer to Elizabeth to protect her from being jostled. It might have been her imagination, but she was sure she felt the feather-light touch of his hand at the small of her back, although when she looked up at him, his attention – and scowl – was focused on her two youngest sisters.

They ran to Mary, who was playing some soft music in the background while everybody chatted and demanded she play some jigs so they could dance a reel with the young officers who had followed behind.

“Excuse me Charlotte, Mr. Darcy, I must speak with my father.”

She hoped, rather than expected, him to take Kitty and Lydia in hand and tone down their exuberance. They were fair young and needed to be taught how to behave in company. She well knew her mother would do nothing, but what was ignored and set aside at Longbourn would not be appreciated in someone else’s home. She made her way to her father’s side in the card room and experienced the disappointment she’d hoped to avoid.



 

#NaNoUpdate - November 21

I must admit, I am a little disappointed in my word count. However, I have a valid reason. It is extremely difficult to type with gloves on. Why do I wear gloves inside the house? Good question. I have a somewhat rare skin condition - Dishydrotic Eczema. It affects only the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands, although the skin alongside the edges of my fingers also peels and frays. It is quite annoying, not only affecting my writing, but also normal household things like cooking and cleaning.

Because #NaNo is held in November, which is when the weather changes and the air becomes quite dry where I live, (Canada), all moisture leaches from my skin and I fight to keep everything moist and supple - hence the moisture gloves. I can manage about an hour or two without them on, but after that, I have to make do with reading or some other activity.

I know, I know. Boo Hoo - I have to read my day away. lol  However, I managed to get some words in, tapping out at 20,232 words and will share with you my next excerpt. To extract a partial quote from a review of my last book on Amazon, this work in progress is becoming 'another one of Sue Barr's Darcy is a jerk' stories.

~~~

The carriage ride home was silent - mostly. After the first mile, Darcy tuned them out. He had heard enough of Bingley saying over and over how he had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls.

“They were all so kind and attentive. I was amazed at how they accepted us with no formality or stiffness of manner. I feel as though I can become great friends with all those I met. And, Miss Bennet…. Oh! I cannot conceive an angel more beautiful.”

“On the contrary, Bingley. All I saw was a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion.”

“And yet you danced with Miss Elizabeth twice.”

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to make me lose my head. I find nothing about her person that compels me to declare her the jewel of Hertfordshire, which is how Sir William described her.”

“If that is his opinion, then he must think Mrs. Bennet is a wit!” Caroline and her sister began to laugh. “Sir William’s judgment is unerringly bad. That is not all. I was told Bennet’s estate is entailed away. Upon the father’s death, all the women will be tossed into the hedgerows.”

Darcy ruminated on that tidbit of information. His chances of success with Miss Elizabeth had exponentially increased. The parents would be desperate to have their daughters married, and with such low connections, their pool of eligible suitors had narrowed from slim to almost none. He may not have to waste too much time courting the chit.

“Jane Bennet is a dear, sweet girl,” Mrs. Hurst offered into the darkness of the carriage.

“She smiles too much,” Darcy murmured.

“That may be so, and I think that is what I like best about her,” Bingley said, ending the conversation by turning his attention to look out the window.

Daydreaming of the fair Miss Bennet, no doubt, Darcy thought. He himself turned his thoughts inward and focused on the desire of his heart - Daphne. He had first caught sight of her at a tawdry little opera. Her talent as a singer did not impress him so much as the daring costume she wore on stage. He swore her dress was two sizes too small and her breasts practically spilled out of the top. From his premiere box, he was able to gaze down and appreciate the dusky aureoles of her nipples peeking out whenever she faced his side of the stage.

He had a footman take her his card between acts and introductions were made that evening outside the dressing room of the secondary characters. Within weeks he had her set up in a little house not far from Drury Lane and for the last two years had spent every available night in her bed. If Georgiana had not been so young, he might have dared bring her to his townhouse. As it was, having her in her own separate establishment meant they could be as audacious as they wished and his sexual repertoire grew apace with hers. She proved to be a fearsome lover. A temptress not afraid to show how much she loved him.

There were times he felt bad for having taken her maidenhead outside the bonds of marriage, but she repeatedly assured him she held no regrets. For her loyalty, he rewarded her with a substantial allowance, jewelry, clothing, and her own carriage with matching greys. In all essentials, she was Mrs. Darcy, except by name.

This past summer, after a near catastrophe with his sister at Ramsgate, he was forced to decamp to his country estate in Derbyshire. Unwilling to forgo his lover’s companionship, he had Daphne follow in a separate carriage and settled her in a small cottage near the edge of his property. At first, she had pouted for being removed from London, but when he begged forgiveness and presented her with a ruby and diamond necklace, she apologized for her temper, saying that she resented having to share him with anyone, even if it was his sister.

To placate her, he proceeded to take care of his estate business from her cottage. If his steward and valet were disgusted by his behavior, he cared not. The only person he kept from his mistress was Georgiana. She was far too young to understand his need for this woman who loved him unconditionally.

What would Daphne think of Miss Elizabeth? He had not informed her of his plan to marry even though she knew he had to at some time in his life. There was no getting around the fact he needed an heir. With luck, the future Mrs. Darcy would take with child immediately. At least with her, he need not worry where his seed spilled. He hated using French letters or having to withdraw when everything in him demanded he thrust deep and release. Maybe once his heir was born, he would fill Daphne’s womb with his seed. It would not matter then if she bore him a son. His body tightened in a familiar way, at the thought of losing himself in the warmth of his lover’s body and then watching her voluptuous body ripen with his child.

If only she were here with him right now. He shook his head at his own folly, glad the carriage was dark enough the Bingley family could not witness his self-castigation. He’d only been apart from Daphne for one day and already he ached. Later that night, as he took himself in hand, he wondered if she missed him as much as he missed her. If only he hadn’t promised Bingley to show him the finer points of estate management he’d be in her boudoir, in her bed, and in her body.

Over the next few days, the ladies of Longbourn visited the ladies of Netherfield and their visit was grudgingly returned, for which Darcy was grateful as it allowed him to assess his future family, ensuring to himself they were his best course of action.

He did not have to wait long. The matriarch of the family had no filter on her tongue. If she thought about something, she spoke of it. No topic, it seemed, was off-limits. The two youngest daughters were atrocious, their manners appalling. In truth, they were non-existent. Their conversations revolved solely around the expected encampment of the militia, who they had danced with, and the thrill of flirting. When not chattering like magpies about those topics, they spoke ad nauseum of dresses. Ribbons, dresses, and bonnets. It was quite obvious they did nothing to better themselves with the type of accomplishments a man required of his wife.

His head ached at the continuous volume of noise that spilled out of their mouths.

The middle daughter, when she did choose to add to the conversation, quoted solely from either the Holy Bible or Fordyce’s Sermons for Young Women. The owl-faced chit had no original thought in her head that did not come from a religious tract. It would have been funny if it had not been so pitiable at how she scowled at her two younger sisters, obviously affronted by the way they behaved.

Then, there was Miss Bennet. Calm, serene, and beautiful. That was it. There was nothing of substance in her demeanor. He knew not what she and Bingley spoke of for the half-hour they were in Longbourn’s parlor. She may as well have been an oil painting, sitting next to his friend, her Mona Lisa smiles revealing nothing of what went on inside her head, which he suspected contained nothing but fluffy bunnies, soft clouds, and romance novels.

Of Miss Elizabeth, he noted how she cringed over her family’s behavior and cast furtive glances in the direction of her father, who did nothing but smirk at their antics. It came as no surprise to Darcy when Mr. Bennet abruptly stood and left the room for his library. He expected no less from a man who did not keep his house in order. It also affirmed his decision on how he would achieve his goal.

The concept of courting Miss Elizabeth had unsettled him as he abhorred deceit of any kind and did not want his future wife to think he held her in tender regard. He was marrying her for a purpose and truly did not want to lie about it. Given that the father was lackadaisical in attitude, a compromise of sorts could be easily accomplished with the added bonus that it would infuriate his uncle even further.

Yes, the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of a seemingly innocent tryst witnessed by others. Also, it would give him an excuse to hasten to town for a special license, and Daphne would willingly soothe his ruffled feathers while he waited for all the necessary arrangements to be finalized. Satisfied with his well-thought-out plan, he allowed himself to peruse his future bride.

She filled out her dress nicely. Bedding her would not be a chore, that was a certainty and she was a country girl at heart, so residing at Pemberley with their heir would not be a hardship. He settled back on the couch satisfied with how he saw his life going forward. Just then, Bingley stood.

“Miss Bennet and I are going for a walk. Would you care to join us, Darcy? I am sure Miss Elizabeth could be persuaded to keep you company.”

The look of outrage on Miss Bingley’s face almost made him laugh out loud. He agreed with alacrity because it suited his plans. The Misses Bennet excused themselves to gather their outerwear while a footman was dispatched to bring around the gentlemen’s. Caroline Bingley rose to her feet and tugged her brother aside. Although her voice was low, Darcy was close enough to hear what she whispered.

“It is bad enough you are drooling over Miss Bennet, but do you have to drag Fitzwilliam into your ill-bred plans?”

Darcy’s eyebrows raised slightly over Miss Bingley referring to him by his given name. The compromise would have to be staged sooner rather than later. She was becoming far too familiar in her attitude with him and before he knew it, he would find her in his bed. He almost snorted at the thought and could well imagine her surprise if he did. She would discover that he had no intention of ever offering for her no matter what she tried. That lot would fall to some other hapless fool.

*Sigh* He really is a jerk. Oh well - c'est la vie!