I am happy to share a new Austenesque novel with you all today. It is inspired by one of our favorites of Jane Austen’s canon.
Devoted readers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are familiar with the story’s critical peaks and valleys—the emotional rise and fall of its narrative. One point that has always intrigued me is after Mr. Darcy’s failed first marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Kent. Afterward, she returns home to her family in Hertfordshire, and he to London; and then disappears off the page for eight chapters. Austen keeps the story focused on her heroine Elizabeth leaving the reader to wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing and feeling for several months until the couple is reunited again in the summer at Pemberley.
Many Austenesque authors have given us their take on this gap. In Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy’s Diary, and Maya Slater’s, The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice is retold from the hero’s perspective in which those three months that Austen leaves open to the reader’s imagination are happily revealed. In Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a new Pride and Prejudice variation by Kelly Miller, we are given another alternative to Mr. Darcy’s journey back to Elizabeth Bennet. All of Austen’s characters are here, yet the players have been moved around on the chessboard in a different manner. Here is a description of the book and an exclusive excerpt to give you an inkling of the tone and writing style.
When secrets are revealed and a family agenda works against him, can Fitzwilliam Darcy recover his damaged spirits and find happiness?
Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to London from Kent broken-hearted and dejected. One bright spot penetrates his sea of despair: his sister, Georgiana, has finally recovered her spirits from the grievous events at Ramsgate the previous summer. She has forged a new friendship with Miss Hester Drake, a lady who appears to be an ideal friend. In fact, Lady Matlock believes Miss Drake is Darcy’s perfect match.
Upon Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival at the Gardiners’ home from Kent, she finds that her sister Jane remains despondent over her abandonment by Mr. Bingley. But Elizabeth has information that might bring them together. She convinces her Uncle Gardiner to write a letter to Mr. Bingley providing key facts supplied to her by Mr. Darcy.
When Mr. Bingley discovers that his friend and sisters colluded to keep Jane’s presence in London from him, how will he respond? Given the chance, will Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their past misunderstandings? What will Darcy do when his beloved sister becomes a hindrance toward winning the lady he loves?
[In this excerpt, Mr. Bingley makes an impromptu visit to Darcy’s London townhouse in London.]
Charles’s knock was answered by an unfamiliar footman; the servant must have been new to the household. He was asked to wait in a nearby sitting room while the man confirmed whether Darcy was available.
No more than a minute later, the door opened, and Slade arrived. “My apologies, Mr. Bingley, but Mr. Darcy—”
“Mr. Bingley!” Miss Darcy took tentative steps into the room, followed by an older lady.
He came to his feet and bowed, giving Darcy’s sister a warm smile. “Miss Darcy, it is good to see you. I hope you are well. You look very well.”
Miss Darcy appeared much like an adult in her stylish gown and with the pleasing arrangement of her blonde curls. Still, she was naught but sixteen, hardly a grown lady yet. She presented a shy smile. “I thank you, Mr. Bingley. I am quite well.” She glanced at the lady beside her. “I should like to introduce you to my companion, Mrs. Annesley.”
Charles greeted Mrs. Annesley, who appeared to be a pleasant lady in her mid-thirties.
A fold appeared above Slade’s brow. “As I was saying, Mr. Bingley, I am sor—”
“Slade, perhaps you would notify my brother that his good friend Mr. Bingley is here.”
The butler hesitated a long moment before giving her a nod. “Yes, miss. I shall do so straight away.” He turned and disappeared.
In a bright, cheery tone, Miss Darcy addressed him. “Do you have plans with my brother today?”
“No, no. I was, um, passing by and thought to stop in and see Darcy. I have not seen him since he left town, and I have a matter I wish to discuss…” Miss Darcy’s smile had evaporated and her posture drooped. Had he said aught to offend her?
“Oh. I thought perhaps you and Fitzwilliam had plans to go out together. That is, I should like to see him pursue the activities he used to enjoy. He has remained—” Miss Darcy halted her speech when Mrs. Annesley placed a hand upon her shoulder and gave her a pointed look. “Well, Mr. Bingley, it was nice to see you. I believe I should return to my studies now. Please excuse us.” Miss Darcy curtseyed and strode off, trailed by her companion.
Charles rubbed his chin. That was odd. Miss Darcy had always been a rather timid, quiet girl, but it seemed just then that she meant to convey a message to him before her companion stopped her. Come to that, Mr. Slade’s conduct had been strange as well. It had almost seemed as though the butler was going to deny him the opportunity of seeing Darcy when he was in residence. Nothing like that had ever happened before.
Almost fifteen minutes later, while caught up in thoughts of his future wedding, Charles started at the sound of footsteps from the hall. Darcy appeared at the doorway; he spoke in a rushed cadence. “Bingley, this is unexpected. It is good to see you. I ought to have let you know I was back in town, but I have been busy of late with estate business.”
“It is quite all right, Darcy.” Charles found himself staring at his friend. He certainly did not look his best. Had the man been working too hard? A hint of shadows was visible beneath his eyes as though he had been missing sleep, and his apparel lacked its usual flawlessness. Darcy’s coat seemed a trifle wrinkled, his waistcoat was unbuttoned at the bottom, as though he had thrown it on in a rush, and his cravat was tied in a lopsided knot. Winston had not dressed him that way; in fact, the valet would be appalled to witness the current state of his master’s apparel. “I apologize if I have come at a bad time, but there is a matter of import of which I should like to speak with you. That is, if you can spare the time.”
A pained look flashed on Darcy’s face before he replaced it with a more neutral expression. “By all means, Bingley. Let us go to my study.”
Within the richly panelled walls of the study, Darcy pointed to a set of chairs positioned by the window and asked him to sit. A quick glance at the room revealed that the study was not as tidy as usual. Darcy’s desk was apt to have one or two neat stacks of papers and correspondence. Now it was a mess—the entire surface covered in a haphazard scattering of documents. The harsh light from the nearest window revealed a thin layer of dust on the side table near his chair; Darcy must not have allowed the servants in to clean for days.
After pouring a glass of brandy for each of them, Darcy sat across from him. “What is on your mind?”
“Well…” Charles moved a stray tuft of hair from his eyes as words eluded him. Perhaps since his friend was such a great reader, Mr. Gardiner’s letter could begin the conversation. Charles dug the letter out of his coat pocket. “I was shocked when I received this letter earlier today. Rather than tell you of it, I shall have you read it.”
Darcy accepted the missive from him. As his friend read, his brows drew together. His eyes opened wide and his gaze fluttered several times from the letter to Charles and back.
Charles held his tongue and sipped his brandy, waiting for Darcy to break the silence.
His friend’s expression was grave and his vocal tone dull. “As you know, I deduced from my own observation at the Netherfield ball that Miss Bennet did not hold any deep feelings for you. Your sisters made me aware that Miss Bennet was in town during the winter and had paid a call at your townhouse. At the time, I agreed with them that it seemed prudent to keep that information from you. We feared that, if you knew Miss Bennet was in town, you would go to her. At the time, I had no reason to disbelieve my earlier conclusion concerning Miss Bennet.”
Darcy took a long breath and lowered his eyes. “It was not until I saw Miss Elizabeth Bennet a fortnight ago in Kent that I learned I had been wrong. I cannot look upon my past behaviour now with anything but disdain. I was wrong to practice deceit against you; it was beneath me. I apologize to you, and I hope you will be able to forgive me.”
He directed his gaze to the remaining liquid in his glass. When Charles first learned of Darcy’s actions, he had anticipated railing against his friend and allowing his righteous anger to have free rein in a way he never would have dared before. Yet those feelings of umbrage towards Darcy melted away in the face of his friend’s humble apology and evident remorse. His friend had never spoken thus, nor had he ever appeared so disconsolate. “You admit you were wrong then?”
Darcy handed him back the epistle. “I was as wrong as I could be. Although the objections I once raised against Miss Bennet’s family had merit, they would mean nothing if you and she truly loved each other.”
His eyes widened. Darcy had never before voiced his opinion on the value of mutual love in marriage. “I am surprised to hear you say this. I thought you believed, as my sisters do, that I ought to find a wife with wealth and good connections to elevate myself in society.”
His friend’s gaze wandered towards the window. “A month or so ago I should have agreed with such a statement, but I have come to believe that true mutual affection is worth far more in marriage.”
Charles made a study of Darcy’s profile. His friend’s countenance was impassive as it often was, yet it was different. An unusual hint of sentimentality pervaded his speech and aspect. What had brought on this change in his friend? This could not be the result of overworking. Chapter 4, pages 76-80.
Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.
Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match is her second novel published by Meryton Press. Her first was the Regency novel Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy. Her third novel, Accusing Mr. Darcy, will be released later in 2020.
Austenprose is pleased to host a preview of Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match during the run of its blog tour. Please visit the other stops.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
- January 27 Austenesque Reviews
- January 28 My Jane Austen Book Club
- January 29 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog
- January 30 So Little Time…
- January 31 Babblings of a Bookworm
- February 3 More Agreeably Engaged
- February 4 Savvy Verse & Wit
- February 6 Donadee’s Corner
- February 7 Diary of an Eccentric
- February 10 From Pemberley to Milton
- February 11 My Vices and Weaknesses
Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Kelly Miller
Meryton Press (2020)
Trade paperback & eBook (380) pages
Cover image, description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Meryton Press © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com