For those readers who devour Pride and Prejudice “what-if” stories made famous by authors like Abigail Reynolds, Monica Fairview and Maria Grace, you have come to expect a storyline that will make a sharp left turn from Jane Austen’s original and send you on a new plot path of misunderstanding, prejudice and pride until Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy find their happily-ever-after. It amazes me how creative authors can be to re-invent the Lizzy and Darcy love story—so imagine my surprise when I read the description of P. O. Dixon’s new Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel Lady Elizabeth?
Ironically the couple’s social standings are reversed and Elizabeth Bennet is now a Lady of even higher rank than the untitled Fitzwilliam Darcy. Ha! Who will be proud and who will be prejudiced in this diverting paradox? One also wonders out loud what Darcy’s cranky Aunt Catherine de Bourgh will have to complain about now that her nephew is courting a daughter of a peer higher than her own family shades? You will just have to find out for yourself in Dixon’s first book in her new series, Pride and Prejudice Everything Will Change. Here are a brief preview and an exclusive excerpt for your amusement.
PREVIEW (from publisher’s description)
Lady Elizabeth is a Pride and Prejudice ‘what-if’ story full of twists and turns, the greatest being Elizabeth’s true identity. She is reared in a loving family as the granddaughter of a duke. Rich and powerful, the duke is determined for her to marry a peer. An arranged marriage awaits her as soon as her would-be betrothed returns from the continent. Darcy, a close friend of Elizabeth’s older brother, makes no secret of his admiration towards Elizabeth; however, because Darcy is not a peer, his attentions meet with the duke’s stern disapproval.
During his stay at Netherfield Park in Hertfordshire, Darcy learns of a tragedy that befell the Bennets, a family from a neighbouring estate, over a decade prior. One of the Bennet daughters vanished in broad daylight from the streets of Lambton.
The resemblance between Lady Elizabeth and one of the younger Bennet daughters is too strong for Darcy to ignore, and he begins to suspect a connection. Darcy is determined to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of the second-born Bennet daughter, even if it means losing the one woman who has captured his heart.
The first of two books in the Everything Will Change series, Lady Elizabeth promises a happy for now ending. So Far Away is the second book in the series. It will be available in early 2015
EXCERPT (from Chapter 4)
Despite her intention to do otherwise, Lady Elizabeth allowed her gaze to pore over his face—his chiseled chin, his stunning eyes. Her older brother’s friend, Mr. Darcy, fascinated her in a manner she dared not confess to anyone. She could not help but consider what a handsome man he was, even if he were a bit taciturn. As much as she would have hated being caught staring, she could not bring herself to obey her mind’s cautioning urges to look away.
Her lingering memory of first having met him at Pemberley crept into her mind. How presumptuous he had been. He knew nothing about her, save whatever Avery may have mentioned in passing. Yet, he suffered no compunction whatsoever in admonishing her to be wary of a gentleman named George Wickham, who also resided at Pemberley.
That Mr. Wickham was indeed a charmer was evident from the moment they first met. For a gentleman who for all intents and purposes was mourning the death of his godfather, Wickham did not hesitate to woo her whenever her grandfather and her brother were not present. All of his charms were wasted on her. Oh, he was indeed a handsome man. However, he was old. Why, at least ten years her senior, a fact that was not nearly so consequential now as it had been when she was barely sixteen. At the time, Elizabeth was not about to confess any of that to Mr. Darcy. How dare he presume to tell me whom I should be wary of? Who did he think he was? My brother? Such had been the thoughts she entertained back then.
Elizabeth continued to study her brother’s friend. No doubt, he is brooding over Avery’s keeping him waiting. His brooding enhances rather than diminishes his handsome face. She could look at him all day, even though she had been woefully disappointed that he had not been among that morning’s early callers. Elizabeth’s stomach fluttered. Even now, she could feel the touch of his lips against her skin from the evening of her coming out ball.
The first time he had met his friend’s younger sister came to Darcy’s busy mind. The Montlakes had traveled all the way from their home in a neighboring county to pay their respects when the elder Mr. Darcy, a longtime friend of the duke, passed away. Darcy’s initial impression of the charming young lady lingered with him still—her pleasing smile, her teasing manner.
Even though Darcy’s friend, Avery, had spoken of his younger sister on several occasions, her legend did not meet with the loveliness of the young lady herself. He was surprised that a young woman of her standing and her age would be prevailed on to travel such a distance to visit people whose acquaintance she had not made. Avery said his sister thought her being there might provide comfort to young Miss Darcy. Indeed, Georgiana, her brother’s junior by ten years, was quite taken with Lady Elizabeth, and it was Darcy’s understanding that the two young ladies had corresponded one or twice since. Were it not for the disparity in their ages, he was confident they would spend time in each other’s company. Not that it was likely now. He had recently taken his sister from school and set her up in her own establishment in town. The woman who presided over the establishment, a Mrs. Younge, seemed like a sensible woman. She came highly recommended by his uncle’s people. At present, Georgiana and Mrs. Younge were in Ramsgate.
Darcy pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. Where is Avery? The two friends had plans to attend an art exhibition that afternoon, and he was to meet Avery at the Montlake townhouse. Upon his arrival, the butler informed Darcy that the young lord was temporarily detained elsewhere and that he would be most obliged if Darcy would wait for him, for he would be along shortly.
He was not unaware that Lady Elizabeth was staring at him. Having garnered more than his fair share of stares from young ladies, he was given to believe that was a practice they enjoyed. Whereas this was normally the worst means of garnering his approbation, nothing could be further from the truth when it came to Lady Elizabeth. He recalled thinking how she was much too young to give any serious consideration when they first met at Pemberley. Now look at her.
Darcy supposed some conversation ought to be had; the room was too quiet, and they had been sitting in that same attitude for a while. On the other hand, she had joined him. Although their prior time in company had largely extended to those times when Darcy visited her brother, he knew her well enough to know that if she desired conversation, she would not hesitate to embark upon it. Turning the page, he suppressed a chuckle. The first time they talked – really talked – came to mind. It had been the evening of her coming out ball.
“Come now, Mr. Darcy, surely you must dance. Or do you mean to frustrate the hopes of every young lady in attendance?”
“In point of fact, Lady Elizabeth, I had but one purpose in coming here this evening.”
“And what may I ask was that?”
“My purpose in coming here was to dance with you, but I understand that your dance card is full.”
She had arched her brow. “And you know this because—”
“—Your brother informed me as much.”
“Oh—what a shame that is, Mr. Darcy. Pray next time you are in wish of dancing with me, you will ask me in advance of the party. As intimate as you are with my brother, I am sure I would make every attempt to save the best dance for you in anticipation of your request.”
“Are you laughing at me, Lady Elizabeth?” Darcy recalled asking.
“Is the gentleman not to be laughed at?” Lady Elizabeth had teasingly responded.
Closing her book with a light thump, Elizabeth interrupted Darcy’s musings. He looked up from the page he had been staring at for quite some time, directly into the most amazing dark eyes.
Refusing to look away, he said, “Lady Elizabeth—”
“You’re staring at me.”
“Indeed, sir. I am wondering how long you mean to pretend that I am not in the room.”
“Was I doing that?”
“You know you were. You have not spoken a single word to me since greeting me upon my arrival. Either I am so boring or your book is so absorbing. Given the conscientious manner in which you have been adhering to your book, I pray it is the latter.”
Darcy moistened his lips. “My book certainly is interesting, but that’s not to say I find you boring—on the contrary.”
“So, I am not boring. What a relief, for I should hate to think you find me dull and dreary.”
“I believe you are teasing me again.”
“No—I know better than to do that. I always endeavor to keep your good opinion—that is assuming I ever possessed it.”
“Trust me, young lady, you have my good opinion.” Closing his book, he leaned forward. “And now that you have my undivided attention, what do you plan to do about it.”
Flustered more than she would have liked by her companion, Elizabeth began to feel the danger of her coquettish banter with her brother’s friend. A man of sense and education, Mr. Darcy was quite unlike any of the other gentlemen of her acquaintance. If I am not careful, I shall grow afraid of him. That would never do.
Now, he was staring at her—daring her. How she wished she could find her voice in the wake of his piercing, nay, intoxicating gaze. There were any number of things she might say next. Nothing immediately sprang to mind, and she began to feel her color rising.
Her companion, Miss Hannah Greene, rescued Elizabeth from a rather intense moment when she entered the room.
She came to the part of the room where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth sat. After affording the gentleman a polite curtsey, she turned to Elizabeth. “Pardon me, my lady. His Grace wishes to see you in his study.”
“Thank you. I shall attend my grandfather directly,” said Elizabeth, thus sending her companion along her way. Closing her book, Elizabeth then stood and curtsied. “It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Darcy.”
He stood and took her free hand in his. His touch was soft and gentle. Raising her hand to his lips, he bestowed a light kiss. Elizabeth trembled inside. Rather than release her hand immediately, he gave it a lingering brush of his finger. “The pleasure was all mine.”
Seconds later, she slowly drifted from the room. Before closing the door completely, she paused to look at him again. He was still watching her. She bit her lower lip and slowly closed the door. The sight of him continuing to look at her was astounding. Could a gentleman such as Mr. Darcy possibly be interested in me? Leaning against the closed door, she reminded herself to breathe.
END OF EXCERPT
Many thanks to author P. O. Dixon for sharing the excerpt from Lady Elizabeth here with us today. I am intrigued to experience the social role reversal of Lizzy and Darcy and how it impacts them and all of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice.
P. O. Dixon has authored several Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice adaptations, all written with one overriding purpose in mind—falling in love with Darcy and Elizabeth. Sometimes provocative, but always entertaining, her stories have been read, commented on, and thoroughly enjoyed by thousands of readers worldwide.
A professional member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Dixon and lives in North Carolina with her guitar-strumming husband and alto sax playing the teenage daughter. Little wonder that her literary voice was once described as musical.
Lady Elizabeth: Pride and Prejudice Everything Will Change Book One, by P. O. Dixon
Regents and Cotswold Book Group (2015)
Trade paperback and eBook (424) pages
Cover image courtesy of Regents and Cotswold Book Group © 2015; excerpt P. O. Dixon © 2015, Austenprose.com