Great news in Austenland, readers. While the pandemic has taken its toll and continues to flourish, we can be grateful that so many housebound writers are working away creating stories for us!
I am happy to share that the fine folks at Meryton Press will be having several novels and novellas rolling out over the next few months and into next year. Huzzah! They are all inspired by the same theme of “Skirmish & Scandal,” and the covers will be designed as a series.
First up is a novella by bestselling Austenesque author Suzan Lauder, entitled, Schemes of Felicity. This Pride and Prejudice inspired short fiction begins at the classic jumping-off point for many variations—the failed first proposal of Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford parsonage. The fallout of the frosty rebuff by Elizabeth is tempered by her later contemplation of his “Be not alarmed, madame…” letter, softening her anger. When the couple is reunited in London, anything might be possible.
We are happy to share an exclusive excerpt from the author for our readers. Enjoy!
A month to find a mate!
Mr. Darcy desires marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but he ruins any such prospect during his proposal at Hunsford. The resulting general sense of malaise interferes with his usually amicable yet stately demeanour, and his Fitzwilliam relatives resolve that Darcy is lonely—he must be in want of a wife. His cousins convince him to leap into the London Season for one month and partner every lady they select for his felicity.
At Longbourn, chaos erupts as Mr. Bennet undergoes a transformation, and Jane and Elizabeth receive the gift of a month in town to enjoy the Season. Meanwhile, Elizabeth pores over Mr. Darcy’s Hunsford letter and wonders about him, warmed by his words.
It’s only a matter of time before the two meet again in this Pride and Prejudice novella. But will their encounter be a repeat of the earlier disaster, or will they overcome their tenuous history? And can Elizabeth’s credentials pass the stringent criteria of the scheming Fitzwilliam cousins who direct Darcy towards the single daughters of every peer of the realm?
17 April 1812
Darcy shook his head. “You do not understand my position. If I dance with any woman outside of my usual circle, I raise expectations with the lady, her mama, and the broadsheets.”
“Then you share your handsome face among as many as you can until you have settled on one,” said Henry, “that is what I did.”
“I wish to avoid being known as a rake.”
Henry shrugged. He had been acknowledged as rather fast before his family matched him with Laura, Lady Courtland, a marquess’s daughter who had turned out to be the love of his life. “I doubt the staid Fitzwilliam Darcy’s reputation will alter quite so quickly.”
Lord Matlock leaned on the arm of his chair. “In any case, every eager young buck out there uses the same stratagem, and even though you have a superior position within the interests of those who want to spread gossip and those who want to entrap a husband, you have our family to assist you.”
He would not be convinced. “I am sorry, but it is not for me.”
“Your aunt was correct, then. You do require our assistance.”
“And how precisely do I require your assistance?” While he was certain what his uncle would say, he would deny it until they forced him to say so.
“Finding a wife,” said his uncle. “You are in need of one, and since you are incapable of finding one on your own, we shall intervene. We shall give you that push you need to achieve this excellent goal.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Henry put up his hands. “Let me elucidate. Richard quipped that it was a manoeuvre, but that seemed an odd way of phrasing what we intend to do. Suffice it to say, you have no choice in the matter. In Richard’s way of speaking, right now, the ladies are recruiting Georgiana to our side. We have our troops, and we are prepared for our campaign.”
Ah, Richard. Here was his way out! “Why do you not do this for Richard instead?”
“I am not moping about and drinking,” said Richard.
What? “I quit the drink days ago.”
“Colonel Fitzwilliam actually attends balls, he actually dances, and he actually speaks to the ladies,” said Avebury. “He has more luck with the ladies than you, and he does not have the advantage of your good looks and fortune to assist him.”
“You,” said the earl, wagging his cigar, “on the other hand, have what Elinor calls shyness, and I call a damned stubbornness against making an effort.”
“And that is why we must assist you,” said Richard. “Look, cousin, I am your closest friend, and I believe you would gain pleasure by what we are proposing. Our course would not solve all your problems, but this would go a long way towards making you happy again.”
The pressure was beyond the pale. Darcy straightened his spine and held out one palm. “Hold on a minute here. Problems? I am accustomed to heading my own household and solving my own problems without interference—”
Richard shook his head. “That is not what I meant!”
“Ah, but you implied it!”
Richard scowled. “You live in a perpetually grumpy state, and I am in concert with my family as to the reason. Why, if any mention of Hertfordshire or a certain—”
This old argument again? He was becoming tired of the curmudgeon in Richard, and his insistence on mentioning topics that were not to be discussed! “I understand your point, and I had enough in the carriage. You do not have to force your ideas onto me again. Please, let us leave the subject alone.”
Richard crossed his arms and twisted away. Perchance he was willing to quit bothering him.
In contrast, his uncle pointed his cigar in his direction. “We cannot leave you to your own devices. Although you are excellent at performing your duties, one of them should be to start a family, and you are not as astute in that area as you are at, say, knowledge and application of land drainage,” said the earl. Darcy opened his mouth to protest yet again, but his uncle raised his hand. “So we intend to shepherd you through the rest of the Season, encouraging your attendance at only the most select activities where we shall introduce you to the cream of the new arrivals to society this year.”
Darcy managed a smirk. “I believe I have met enough of last year’s young ladies to anticipate their manner, and I do not care for simpering, fawning misses.”
His uncle’s head tilted forward, his brow contracted. “Do not joke about this. We are serious. You need an heir for Pemberley.”
Chapter 3, page 36-38
- “Suzan Lauder has crafted a lighthearted, fun what-if that will charm even the most stalwart Jane Austen purists. Lauder expertly weaves Austen’s beloved characters with a family of original characters in a new take on Austen’s timeless tale. You’ll fall in love with Darcy all over again!” —-L.L. Diamond, Author of Undoing
- “Although [Schemes of Felicity] moved quickly, it still managed to touch base with many of our favorite and less favorite characters… I highly recommend this story.”—J.W. Garrett, Goodreads
- “I do love the way Ms. Lauder writes! She always provides her readers with believable characterizations, wonderful dialogue, and narration that’s engaging while keeping the story moving at a purposeful pace, and this charming novella is no exception.” —Debbie Brown, Goodreads
A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.
Schemes of Felicity is a light Regency romance that leads the Skirmish and Scandal series of novellas published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter; the dramatic tension filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate; the Regency romantic comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman; and a Regency romantic suspense, The Mist of her Memory. She is a lifetime member of JASNA.
Schemes of Felicity: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Suzan Lauder
Meryton Press (August 10, 2020)
Trade paperback & eBook (120) pages
Cover image, book description, and excerpt complements of Meryton Press © 2020; Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com