Please join us today in welcoming author Abigail Reynolds on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, a new Pride and Prejudice “what if” story published today by Sourcebooks. Abigail has kindly shared an exclusive excerpt from the novel for our readers. Here is her set-up to the scene…
In Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, Elizabeth and the Gardiners follow their original plan to travel to the Lake District, so there is no meeting at Pemberley. Instead, Darcy decides to return to Hertfordshire to court Elizabeth. Their first meeting is at another Meryton assembly where he dances with Elizabeth. She thinks him aware of her recent engagement, but he knows nothing of it. In this excerpt, he reflects back on their dance.
Excerpt of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing:
Darcy was cautiously pleased with how the evening was progressing. Although the degree of shock with which Elizabeth had greeted him had not been promising, she had agreed to dance with him, spoken with him with an air of comfort, and even teased him a little, if he was not mistaken. He had ached for her from the moment he saw her, standing by her sister with her back to the door, and the exquisite pleasure of touching her hand as they danced had only reinforced his desire to win her. He could not quite bring himself to dance with another woman so quickly, so instead determined to demonstrate his attention to her reproofs by conversing with her family. Unfortunately, the only member of her family then available was her mother. Taking a deep breath, he approached Mrs. Bennet, giving her his compliments and enquiring after her well-being.
His reception was initially cold and ceremonious, but he persisted in his civility, just keeping himself from rolling his eyes at some of Mrs. Bennet’s ridiculous manners. Soon, however, the compliment of having such a man’s attention outweighed her former anger towards him, and she began to take advantage of the opportunity to tell him all the news of the neighbourhood.
“My sister Phillips’ eldest son married last spring to Harriet Letsworth, and that was quite the occasion,” she said. With pride, she added her coup, “And you have no doubt heard, Mr. Darcy, of my daughter’s engagement.”
Darcy’s wandering attention snapped back to her at these words. Miss Bennet engaged? Bingley would be devastated, especially if the look on his face when he danced with her was anything to judge by. This was a disaster; it would certainly make matters more difficult for him with Elizabeth as well. He cleared his throat, trying to mask his reaction, and said, “Miss Bennet is engaged? No, I have not had the pleasure of hearing the news.”
“Oh, no, not Jane!” replied Mrs. Bennet distractedly, her eyes travelling with satisfaction toward the figure of Mr. Bingley. “No, it is Lizzy who is to marry Mr. Covington—ah, yes, he has just arrived. My daughter Lydia is unfortunately not with us tonight; she is visiting Colonel Forster’s wife in Devonshire.”
Darcy was struck by a sharp shock of pain and disbelief at her unexpected words. His Elizabeth, promised to another man? It could not be! The possibility had never so much as crossed his mind that she might look on some other man with favour—that she might refuse him again, yes, but marry another, and so quickly? How could this have happened? His eyes sought her out involuntarily where she stood conversing with several acquaintances, and the taste of bile rose in his throat. He forced himself to say, “I do not believe that I am acquainted with Mr. Covington.” But I know enough about him already to wish he had never taken the first breath of life! he thought darkly. “Not know him?” cried Mrs. Bennet disbelievingly. “Mr. Covington is master of Ashworth House, and a fine gentleman. Surely you must have met him last autumn, Mr. Darcy? There he is now.” With an embarrassing want of propriety, she pointed across the room to a well-built gentleman perhaps a few years younger than Darcy, with a handsome enough countenance though no particular claim to style, but fitting well into the company at hand. As Darcy watched with bitter jealousy, he approached Elizabeth and greeted her warmly, raising her hand to his lips.
Darcy’s eyes were fixed on Elizabeth, who welcomed the interloper with a somewhat absent smile, continuing her conversation and apparently including him without particular effort. Elizabeth, he thought despairingly.
Mr. Covington’s late arrival had not come as a surprise to Elizabeth; she knew he was quite busy at this season, and she was just as happy he had been absent during her dance with Darcy. She could not help but wonder what Darcy was thinking, if he had noticed the two of them together, and whether he was thanking heaven for his narrow escape. As Mr. Covington took her hand for the next dance, she braved a glimpse in his direction.
One look at his face told her something was terribly wrong. She saw her mother chatting away to him while he appeared oblivious, looking directly at Elizabeth. The realization suddenly hit her that he had not known of her engagement, that this was news to him; and a sudden wave of nausea passed over her. How cruel he must think she had been with her arch looks and teasing during their dances! She might not care for him, but he had been making a pronounced effort to be civil, and he did not deserve to be treated so. And what would Mr. Covington think if he knew she had been dancing with a gentleman who had loved her ardently and wanted to marry her? She felt heartily ashamed of herself, without quite knowing why.
Mr. Covington noticed her hesitation. “Are you well, Miss Bennet?” he asked with concern, noting her pallor.
Elizabeth swallowed. “Yes, quite well, sir,” she said. “Please, let us continue.”
End of excerpt…
I hope you enjoyed this visit with Darcy and Elizabeth! I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about Mr. Darcy’s Undoing or my other books.
Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology at Bryn Mawr College before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing Pride and Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters. Her most recent releases are What Would Mr. Darcy Do? and an anthology of Pride and Prejudice stories, A Pemberley Medley. Abigail is a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of wild animals masquerading as pets. Her hobbies include beading, reading, and finding time to sleep. Website: Pemberley Variations; Blog: Austen Authors; Facebook: Abigail Reynolds and at Twitter: @AbigailReynolds
Giveaway of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing
Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, by asking Abigail a question about her new novel, or any of the novels in her Pemberley Variations series,by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 19, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, by Abigail Reynolds
Trade paperback (352) pages
© 2007 – 2011 Abigail Reynolds, Austenprose