I am thrilled to have Melanie Rachel here to share the first page from her two book series: Drawing Mr. Darcy. I was, and still am, a rabid fan of this P&P variation and devoured every post when Melanie shared this story on A Happy Assembly. She even managed to drag me out of lurkdom and join other fans on the comment thread.
There are not enough words to describe how much I love this portrayal of Elizabeth and Darcy. My only regret is that Melanie didn't punish Caroline Bingley enough. If I reviewed novels, this would have garnered five teacups.
When Thomas Bennet's childless aunt and uncle ask that one of his five daughters come to stay with them, he knows just which girl to send. Bright, energetic, and endlessly inquisitive, his little Lizzy is poised to become the apple of her father’s eye and the target of her mother’s fears. Neither will promote family harmony.
When she returns to Longbourn as a young woman, Elizabeth Bennet Russell has had an unconventional upbringing. She is in possession of an important name, a fine education, a good fortune, and a love of drawing. When her parents ask her not to use her Russell surname while she is home, she reluctantly agrees. After all, nobody she knows will meet her in Hertfordshire.
She’s mostly right.
Drawing helps Elizabeth to literally sketch people’s character, and she’s become rather good at it. But she’s about to face her greatest challenge yet. Netherfield Park is let at last, and her good friend's much older brother--whom she has yet to meet--has arrived as a guest.
It will take Elizabeth more than a drawing to help her understand Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
“It shall not be Jane,” Mrs. Bennet declared. “And the other girls are too young, Mr. Bennet.”
Thomas Bennet sighed, the missive from his aunt dangling between his fingers. He was not a dependable correspondent, but when Aunt Olivia’s elegant script appeared on one of his letters, he did not delay. Olivia was the youngest of his father’s six siblings and the last remaining member of that generation. Duty alone explained his unusual attentiveness, but she had further earned her claim on his heart.
The terrible summer and relentless winters of ’83 and ‘84 had been devastating; old Mr. Bennet had nearly emptied the estate’s coffers to withstand it and had died unexpectedly less than a year later. Thomas had at last cleared the remaining debts and made some small investments in sheep and new fertilizers and equipment, but it had taken a very gracious subsidy from his aunt to achieve it. She had called it a belated wedding gift and haughtily rejected his offer of repayment, softening only to ask, at first, for frequent news about the estate where she had grown up, and later, for stories about his family.
Thomas was deeply grateful for her assistance in saving Longbourn, but he had to face other hard facts if he intended to keep it solvent. His father, though a good man, had not managed the estate well during his tenure, and it had taken the better part of the last fifteen years to regain lost ground and improve its prospects. Barley and corn grew well and they had experienced some success with other grains. He was working steadily to increase Longbourn’s flock of Southdowns; to do much else was presently beyond his means. He was grateful to be in a stable financial position at last, but Thomas Bennet was tired.