We're trying a lot of new things with this story! The premise I had in my head was what if we saw Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy the afternoon of the ball? And that turned into cheeky Bingley DARING Mr. Darcy to make his feelings known for Elizabeth the night of the ball! And as more and more of the story came to me . . . SHOOOO . . . it's HAWT! This whole thing is going to go off the rails at the ball, and then Elizabeth is ticked she's more or less stuck with Mr. Darcy, and then Mr. Darcy is going to have do to some major wooing.... and yeah, there are scenes sketched in my head and on my outline that make me weak at the knees! So this story WILL have more traditional romance book level heat, and I will also put a warning on chapters with heat for those who want to read along and just skip the racy bits. 🙂
THE OTHER NEW THING: Certain ebook vendors have prematurely aged authors with bogus copyright notices, delisting books, and threatening to close accounts in the emails they send out. I received such an email November 6, 2017 and lost almost an entire week of productivity as I worked to resolve it. At stake was 80% of the new release earnings on The Trappings of Marriage, or 25% of my yearly income this year from writing books. 🙁
I take my delightful obligation to my readers VERY seriously, I do everything I can to make sure I can keep writing and releasing multiple books a year. Therefore, it is now time I begin to lessen OUR reliance on other book vendors for our survival as a small community. To that end, I am asking my readers to join me in starting a movement, to buy direct from authors. I don't expect to put any big box store out of business, and I will still sell on every vendor I can. But I want the ratios to be better that if a big box store gives me 4 days to prove I own the books I've been selling for years "or else," then I want us to be protected that should their system fail us, we are not over.
This is the start, and you are right here. 🙂 For If Mr. Darcy Dared, the PREORDER will be available direct from me through Gumroad, at a discount, AND you will get the book a week before anyone else. The chapters here won't even give the full book before the Reader Supported Preorder releases.
I hope you will consider Gumroad, as it's a platform that will deliver your files to their app, to your Dropbox, or you can set up direct Send to Kindle. If you need any help, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or join us in the #Janeside on Facebook and I'll be happy to help anyone.
The big box stores do not get to push around JAFF authors without consequences. No, they do not!
XOXOXO Elizabeth Ann West
Chapter 1 - If Mr. Darcy Dared
“If impatience ever becomes a virtue, I shall be a paragon,” pronounced Mr. Bingley, the temporary master of Netherfield Park, on the eve of hosting his first ball. In the surrounding countryside more than four and twenty families were finishing their preparations to begin the journey to Netherfield at dusk. But for Charles Bingley, all of his preparations were complete.
“You are likely spared that possibility.” Charles’ oldest friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy dusted sand across his letter to his sister. His eyes carelessly flitted over the frequent capital ‘E’ in his missive as he again could not resist describing in great detail a young lass he met thanks to Bingley’s autumn invitation: Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He would not rewrite the letter to edit. Aside from his aversion to crossing out words, if he were to overcome his disgust and do so, it would make his younger sister, Georgiana, even more suspicious of him. He would have to endure his blunder and pray his sister kept his counsel.
Bingley continued his agitation by walking swiftly along the wall of windows, inspecting the horizon for some sign of his guests.
“Careful, Bingley, or you shall tire your legs before she arrives.”
Darcy groaned as he pressed the wax seal to the back of his sister’s letter. “I’ve warned you about showing such particular attention to one lady. This is not Town. There will be expectations.”
“And what if there were? Are you insinuating I am not a man of my word? By me, she is such an angel . . . “ Charles gave the coffered, white ceiling a far-off gaze, eliciting a frown from his friend.
“Miss Amelia?” Darcy asked.
Charles’ face fell into a sour twist. “I never declared . . . That is . . . She thought I should go into politics!”
Mr. Darcy admitted privately to himself that the Jones’ family political aspirations were distasteful even to him. Charles had been wise to sever the connection. But there were still more ladies he could enumerate.
“And Lady Harriet?”
“Her family would have never approved of the match.”
“That’s presumptuous, she was a fourth daughter and you sell yourself short, friend.” Darcy held it on good authority that Lord and Lady Devon had not ruled the match out of hand, but he had never burdened his friend with the knowledge because it came after Charles had ended his flirtation.
“She was also much older than I am. I wish to have a family.”
Darcy nodded but refused to give up as Charles still missed his point.
“And Miss Katherine? Enlighten me as to her trespass.”
Charles’ face reddened as he refused to meet Darcy’s eye. “This is not very supportive of you to bring up all of my mistakes and foibles before I am to host the entire neighborhood. I say, if I should misstep tonight upon a poor lady’s slipper, it will be the ill humors you have put in my mind.”
Darcy laughed. “Do not take such offense; you are a flirt, Bingley. You always have been. I am a good friend to warn you of your worst shortcomings. Miss Bennet does not deserve your fickleness. If you do not intend to make an offer, I pray you leave her hopes unaffected.”
“I hold no control over a lady’s hopes.”
Bingley threw his hands up in exasperation. “I DO intend to offer for her. There, are you satisfied? Can a man not keep a single secret in this house?” Charles thought of his sister’s reaction when she peppered him about his intentions to stay in the unfashionable countryside for the remainder of the year. That conversation had not gone well, though few conversations with Caroline ever did.
Darcy’s eyes widened as he fell silent. He had expected Charles to agree with him that his attentions to Miss Bennet had become dangerous, and not that he had already decided to marry the woman! But as he considered the merits of Miss Bennet, he could find no fault in her, though her family was an entirely other matter.
“Aha! There, I have shocked you. You didn’t think I had it in me, did you? The flirt, Charles. And I shall marry before you.”
Darcy blinked. A laughing vision of Elizabeth Bennet involuntarily intruded on Darcy’s thoughts as he shook his head to regain focus. “How long have you considered this course of action?”
“You may say it is too short, but have not all of the poets warned us that love is best at first sight? I thought I liked her when we first met, I knew I loved her when she fell ill in my household, and I stood powerless to spare her any discomfort.”
Again, Mr. Darcy’s imagination taunted him with the hypothetical of Miss Elizabeth injured in a field or sick in bed, and he began to feel annoyed at such a lack of regulation of his emotions. “And you intend to offer for her hand tonight?”
Charles grinned. Then shrugged. “The thought had crossed my mind, there, now declare me impetuous. I dare you. But in your quest to censure me, have you never thought to take consideration of yourself?”
“What complaint do you have against my character? I hold myself to the strictest codes of conduct!”
Charles approached the writing desk where Darcy still sat, his sister’s letter still folded and lying upon the blotter.
“How many times did you make that loopy E to compliment Miss Elizabeth?” Charles delighted in his friend’s flustered appearance, and Darcy followed his pointed finger to the letter.
“You read over my shoulder?” Darcy spat, his anger now boiling in his veins.
“Nay. But you wrote her name so many times, it was impossible to miss in my pacing about the room. Besides, not a day has passed since Sir Lucas’ dinner that you have not found a reason to bring up Miss Elizabeth anytime I spoke of Jane.”
Darcy inhaled a deep breath and exhaled, formulating an explanation. “I only did so as an attempt to dissuade you from exalting Miss Bennet beyond measure.”
Charles shook his head and laughed as he gallantly glided away from the desk in mock practice for the evening’s ball.
“Come Darcy; you have never lied to me. Admit it; you are just as plucked by Miss Elizabeth as I am for her sister, Jane. The question remains what you shall do about it?” Charles bowed and turned, continuing to practice the steps of a reel.
Darcy allowed him to play the fool while he thought about the very dream he had resisted for weeks. Nightly he was taunted by a vision of Miss Elizabeth Bennet on his arm walking up the two tiers of steps to Pemberley. Her cheeks pink, her voice light with laughter, he feeling warm as they had just enjoyed a stroll as husband and wife. Then the vision crumbled in his mind as he heard the shouts of his Aunt Catherine and Uncle William, and perhaps even his Uncle Thomas, severely disappointed he married against their advice and without their blessing. Then he thought of Georgiana, tearfully telling him of rejection to the parlors of London because his marriage had offended too many of the Matchmaking Mamas.
“It is impossible.”
Charles stopped mid-hum and restored his person to a stance of more seriousness. If he had shocked Darcy earlier, then his friend had returned measure for measure.
“You have truly thought of marrying her!”
Darcy furrowed his eyebrows as he now allowed his frustrations to release with his words. “Of course I have thought of offering my hand! She is sensible, witty, and the sound of her laugh sparks a fire in my heart. But it cannot be. And you would be wise to think of your responsibilities as well.”
“What responsibilities do I have that preclude me from making an offer for dear Jane? Or you for her sister?”
“Our sisters, or have you not thought about Caroline’s marriage prospects as I have worried for Georgiana’s?” At this, Mr. Darcy stood to confront his friend in both word and stature. But Charles was not intimidated.
“I shall grant that perhaps you have more upon your shoulders as your sister is younger, yet mine is out in society. But are we not considering marrying two lovely lasses on their merits alone to the exclusion of their family’s? And should we not like suitors for our sisters to do the same?”
Narrowing his eyes at such pretty logic he had not considered, Darcy pursed his lips. “That is a dangerous oversimplification.”
Charles pointed his finger at his friend. As he so rarely took Mr. Darcy to task, the lack of practice made him marvel at his sudden expression of sternness. “You hold every advantage in the world, Fitzwilliam. There is no greater aspiration than to find a marriage of mutual respect and admiration. I dare you to find the courage tonight to make your feelings known to your angel as I shall most certainly do so to mine.”
Before Darcy could answer, the doors to the parlor opened abruptly and Caroline Bingley strolled in with an exuberant smile on her face.
“I found myself unable to rest with such excitement for tonight! And I wanted your opinions on my gown for the evening.” Caroline began to turn, unprompted, to display all angles of her gown as her brother and his friend froze in surprise at her sudden appearance.
Darcy looked at Charles who nodded to him to remind him of his charge.
“You must excuse me, I wish to post this letter to my sister.” Mr. Darcy scooped up the letter to Georgiana, avoiding a declaration on Miss Bingley’s appearance.
Caroline giggled as Mr. Darcy passed her, clearly embarrassed and unable to meet her gaze. She had heard her brother’s words to Mr. Darcy just before she opened the doors, certain more than ever that her brother’s friend remained tormented by his feelings for her. She timed her entry to visually remind him of the lady he struggled to declare for, and now found herself eagerly awaiting the evening’s ball, despite her brother’s plans to offer for that simpering Jane.
“Caroline,” her brother’s voice startled her back to the present moment and away from the fantasies of later, “you look perfectly suited for the ball. And your hair is lovely.” Charles leaned forward to peck his sister’s cheek as a compliment, but Caroline withdrew most sharply.
“My hair is not done for the evening. Honestly, Charles. How could you think I would attend a function with such a simple style? I shall have at least three ostrich feathers for the ball. I had them dispatched from London.”
Charles sighed at his sister’s extravagance. She had but one or two more seasons to find a husband, and even then, it was more unlikely every year. He held a suspicion that Caroline aimed to ensnare Darcy in her claws, but he knew his friend held no attraction to her. Still, she was his sister, and therefore, he would always offer her his support.
“I am sure your feathers will be the talk of Meryton, and you just might bring them into vogue here in Hertfordshire.”
Caroline beamed at the thought of setting trends and now allowed her brother to kiss her cheek she presumptuously tilted toward him. The brother and sister began talking of the preparations for the ball, Charles allowed Caroline to relish in her role as mistress of Netherfield Park and not once did his daydreaming of Jane Bennet in the role disturb his noncommittal agreements and compliments of his sister’s monologue.
If Mr. Darcy Dared
a Pride and Prejudice variation novel
Release Date: January 31, 2018
As Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy prepare for the Netherfield Ball, a gentlemen's challenge develops between them to secure their future happiness . . . with the two eldest Bennet sisters! But when things do not go as expected for Mr. Darcy, Hertfordshire society is in an uproar over the pursuit of one of their favorite daughters by such a wealthy gentleman.
Despite being claimed by Mr. Darcy as his future bride, Elizabeth Bennet has no plans to wed the proud and disdainful Mr. Darcy, no matter what her father says! At her sister's urging, she agrees to give him a chance, if only for Jane's sake. But there are others with an interest in breaking a match between Fitzwilliam Darcy and some country miss. . .
The stakes are high and romance strong as two of Jane Austen's most beloved characters dare to declare their feelings, dare to defy family, and dare to trust each other!
If Mr. Darcy Dared is a steamy romance for fans of Elizabeth Ann West's other works, especially those readers who love their drama cranked to a ten!
+ 15 additional Pride & Prejudice variations are available at these fine retailers . . .