Today I welcome the lovely Martine Roberts to my blog who has sent me an excerpt from her story, Mr Darcy's Struggle, to post for your enjoyment. I will also be reviewing this story soon so watch for my review.
"New Revised Edition. What if, after initially refusing Mr Darcy's offer of marriage at the parsonage, Elizabeth finds herself in the position where she is forced to accept his proposal? The proud Mr Darcy has only six weeks to prove himself and make Elizabeth fall in love with him. Taking her reproofs to heart he is determined to woo her and become a better man. Then days before the wedding she receives another offer. Will she meet him at the altar or run to the arms of another?"
Excerpt from Chapter 3
The next morning Elizabeth dressed quietly, and arranging her hair in a simple style. Then noticing the time, she pulled on her bonnet and gloves and crept downstairs. Taking an apple from the bowl on the kitchen table, she turned and gave the young maid a smile, then opened the back door to keep her rendezvous with Mr. Darcy. As she neared the designated meeting place, she spied him standing there, unaware of her approach. He cut such a dashing figure in his fashionable clothes; Elizabeth acknowledged he was an exceedingly handsome man. He could have, and was expected to, select his bride from the very best families that society had to offer. Instead, he had chosen her, the daughter of a simple country gentleman. She lingered to admire his physique, and then blushed furiously when Darcy spun round to greet her. Well aware that she had been caught, Elizabeth lowered her eyes as he strode towards her; he paused and gave her a curt bow.
“Good morning Miss Elizabeth, I am pleased to see you,” he started, “I thought you might resist my entreaty to meet me.”
Returning his greeting with a slight curtsy she replied;
“Good Morning Mr. Darcy. I said I would come and as you can see I am here."
Elizabeth noticed how he constantly fed the rim of his hat through his fingers, betraying his state of nervousness. Finally, he clasped his hands behind his back and began to address her.
“Miss Bennet, I must offer you my profound apologies for my behaviour yesterday, it was unforgivable. I fear as a result of my actions, I have put you in an untenable position. I know and understand your sentiments in regard to my offer; indeed you made your feeling perfectly clear yesterday. But I feel under the circumstances, and with Mr. Collins untimely intrusion, there is no recourse left open to us but to marry.”
Darcy searched her face to gauge the impact of his words. He expected her to raise any number of objections, or to berate him most severely at the very least, but instead she was smiling.
“Are you laughing at me Madam?” he said stiffly.
Elizabeth raised her eyes to meet his, and let her smile linger a little longer before saying,
“Why Mr. Darcy, what an eloquent speech, have you been rehearsing while you waited for me?” she asked playfully.
The truth was Elizabeth had been awake most of the night herself, turning the events over in her mind, and she too had come to the same conclusion. There was no point in fighting the inevitable, so she had decided to go forward with a positive frame of mind. Still, she could not help but tease him a little.
“It appears your days as an eligible bachelor are numbered Mr Darcy.”
“Then we are agreed?” He asked, unable to hide the surprise in his voice, “The engagement stands?”
Elizabeth treated Darcy to a full smile, then continued along the path, only to glanced back over her shoulder and add,
“The engagement stands.”
Elizabeth was not party to the expression of great relief on his face, or the sagging of his shoulders as the tension left his body. He was sure that she would protest his actions, his intolerable high handedness; instead she was in full agreement. Also she was right in her surmise; he had been rehearsing his address to her. He had been so utterly wrong in his previous proposal; he could not risk alienating her again. But what had caught his attention the most was her smile. It had been just for him. Quickly he caught up with her and stood afore her, blocking the path. Elizabeth gave an inward sign. She had hoped to escape further discussion on the subject, but clearly Mr. Darcy had other ideas.
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” he said using her full name “you never cease to surprise me. Do you know how much pleasure it brings me being in your company?” he asked with a smile of his own.
Momentarily taken aback by his sudden declaration of emotion, Elizabeth could not help herself. Raising her eyebrows she retorted slyly,
“After the occurrence of yesterday afternoon, I think you leave me in little doubt as to how much you savour my company sir,” and she walked on.
Darcy threw back his head and gave a raucous laugh. He knew their life together would never be dull; her quick wit was just another reason he loved her. Yes, Elizabeth Bennet was the perfect woman for him, and he could not fault his taste. Taking the few strides needed to catch up with her he took her hand and gently kissed it. She tried to withdraw it, but he would not oblige. Instead, he caressed her fingers with his thumb as they continued along the path. Elizabeth was no longer aware of her surroundings; her mind was completely focused on the sensations Darcy’s attention to her hand was creating. She was amazed at the effects such a small caress could have on her body. Her heart began to race as a tingling warmth radiate from the area Darcy stroked. Suddenly, she became aware that they had stopped walking. Darcy was looking at her, his head slightly tilted as he studied her face. She lowered her gaze, fearful he would see the effect his closeness was having on her. Then he softly said her name,
“Elizabeth, we have walked far enough. I must make haste to Longbourn. Before I do so, would you permit me to kiss you goodbye?”
Elizabeth knew she should be shocked at this blatant disregard for propriety. Instead she coyly gave her reply.
“I feel that on this occasion, it is acceptable for us to affirm our betrothal in the manner you request Mr. Darcy,” and she waited for him to claim her lips.
In a soft whisper Darcy said,
“Elizabeth, look at me Elizabeth.”
Suddenly feeling shy, she was reluctant to meet his gaze. Sensing this reluctance, he ran a finger lightly down her cheek, coming to rest under her chin. Gently he tilted her head up. The smouldering desire he felt was unmistakably visible in his eyes, and suddenly she felt breathless. As she parted her lips, he bent his head and let his lips gently caress hers. The sensation his brief caress evoked, seemed to spark through her entire body. She raised her face a little more, and Darcy was encouraged to deepen the kiss.
Savouring her timid response, Darcy permitted a fraction of urgency to creep in as he tasted her lips. They were delicious beyond belief, and he wanted to prolong the experience for as long as he dare. He craved to awaken the passion and desire still dormant in her, but he knew she did not love him, and that was the one thing he desired above all else. With reluctance Darcy pulled away, mindful of Elizabeth’s innocence. He was pleased she had permitted such an intimate embrace before they were married. As she tried to catch her breath, and to restore a modicum of composure, Elizabeth realized she would need to be on her guard when in close proximity to Darcy. She enjoyed his kisses far too much!
“You are a hard man to resist Mr. Darcy,” she said breathlessly.
“And I find you irresistible Miss Bennet,” he replied.
This time Elizabeth did not shy away as he took her hand, and together they made their way back to the parsonage.
I am very much looking forward to reading this book, especially after that excerpt!
** GIVEAWAY - ends Wednesday 8th October**
Martine has provided me a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive this beautiful set of Jane Austen novels, The Collector's Library edition. (Or if preferred an amazon gift card or Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop gift card to the value of £25.) This giveaway is open internationally.
To enter, leave a comment below and the winner will be picked randomly.
Please leave your email address (and if you would prefer one of the alternative gift card prizes then please say so.) If you are the lucky winner, I will pass on your email to Martine who will be in touch.
Your affectionate friend,