Thursday Three Hundred- 14th of October, Regency

Last week, I posted a story inspired by Thomas Rhett’s Unforgettable. It had a modern setting. Today, I have a story inspired by the same song but set in the Regency Era. Let me know which you liked better!

14th of October, Regency

 

Charles Bingley greeted the master of ceremonies of the country assembly he attended. He had recently let a large house in the neighbourhood. Many of the area gentlemen had called and introduced themselves as a necessary etiquette before they could introduce their wives and daughters. Sir William Lucas, the man he was speaking to, introduced his eldest two daughters, Charlotte and Maria. Both seemed kind young ladies although Maria appeared very young and uncertain of herself. Bingley assumed she had only recently entered Society. Miss Lucas looked a few years his senior, and her mother desperately suggested they partner for the first dance. Never one to want to give offense and an enthusiast of the sport in general, Bingley complied.

As he led Miss Lucas to the dance floor, his eyes fell upon an angel. Her white gown had a blue overlay and exposed nearly all of her shoulders. The seductive glimpses of skin were balanced by covering her ample décolletage.

“Mr. Bingley,” Miss Lucas’ voice interrupted his musings.

“Pardon me, I was admiring the splendour of the room.”

Miss Lucas grinned. “I could see that. She is lovely, is she not?”

Bingley blushed. “Forgive me. I did not wish to offend.”

“Oh, I am not offended. I am quite used to young men falling in love with Jane. She is too sweet for me to be upset about it.”

Was he in love already? His friend, Darcy, would laugh at him for he had a habit of falling for a lady at first sight. Usually, Darcy would have to talk sense into him later and expose the lady’s cruel designs. Joining high society had been Bingley’s father’s greatest wish, but he was far more ready for the cutthroat attitudes of the ton than his son was. Bingley would rather live in the country than in London. His greatest wish was to surround himself with true friends who loved him and not his five thousand a year.

Seeing that Miss Lucas was not upset at his indifference, he asked, “Would you introduce me to her after our set?”

“Certainly.”

Bingley’s heart hammered loudly in his chest as Miss Lucas performed the introduction. He bowed over Miss Bennet’s hand and promptly asked her to dance. When she smiled at his request and agreed, he swore his heart skipped a beat.

Minutes passed while the musicians shuffled their music and couples filtered to the dance floor. Bingley grabbed a cup of punch to steady his nerves. Throughout the dance, Bingley’s tongue could not keep up with his brain which went blank every time Miss Bennet glanced at him. They spent most of their dance in silence, conversation limited to general topics and entirely perused by Miss Bennet.

After their dance, Miss Bennet’s mother came to her side shrieking and complimenting her daughter on her conquest. Many other young ladies, some with striking facial similarities to Miss Bennet, gathered around her. He needed to dance with her again, to feel the pressure of her gloved hand in his. However, etiquette dictated that he could not yet ask her to dance again. Instead, he sought an introduction to the lady closest to him, a Miss King. Then he danced with the younger Miss Lucas. Between sets, he sought out the punch bowl to loosen his tongue so he might dazzle Miss Bennet with his charm and wit during their next dance.

At last, the moment came. Bingley confidently walked to Miss Bennet’s side, but before he could say a word, an aging man with a growing gut appeared.

“If you are free, my dear Miss Bennet, I would be honoured to dance with you.”

Charles scowled at the man and his poorly worded request. He ought to humbly beg this angel sent to earth to deign to glance at him! Feeling his face heat in indignation, Miss Bennet’s sweet voice rang out.

“Forgive me, Mr. Long, but I am already promised to Mr. Bingley for this set.”

She reached her hand forward, and Bingley immediately grabbed it. Without another look, he led her to the dance floor.

“Pray forgive me. I did not mean to trap you, but Mr. Long has been so persistent and will not take my hints at displeasure with his suit.”

“How intolerable. I will gladly be your partner at any ball.” Bingley paused for a moment as the dance separated them. “In fact, dinner engagements may not be safe either. We could arrange to find one another at each meeting and then you would be safe from his attentions.”

A soft smile set on Miss Bennet’s face. “I do not know that we need to go to such lengths. Surely, he will be discouraged soon enough.”

“If it were me, I would not give up so easily.”

Miss Bennet laughed. “Upon my word, that is very forward of you for such a new acquaintance. Sir, are you foxed?”

“No, certainly not.” Missing a step to the dance, he almost fell and most certainly would have sprained his ankle.

Miss Bennet’s eyebrows rose. “I see.”

Taking a deep breath to puff out his chest, Bingley focused on saying something that would convince her of his sobriety. “Would a drunk man say that…” Miss Bennet began to smile, and his mind went blank.

“I am waiting, sir.”

“I am going to marry you.”

“Pardon?” Miss Bennet stumbled, and Bingley caught her by the hand.

“I said I am going to tarry here.”

“No,” Miss Bennet shook her head. “I do not think you did.”

Flushing, Bingley attempted to think fast. “Forgive me, I was attempting to tease, but I think perhaps it was too far.”

Miss Bennet’s eyes went wide and then searched his. Slowly, she began to smile.

“Oh, I can tease as well. My sister, Elizabeth, is a great teaser.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, that is her in the green.” Miss Bennet nodded to her left. “You ought to ask her to dance next. I think you will enjoy her wit.”

“An excellent suggestion, thank you.”

“You see if I thought you were serious about wanting to marry me I would hardly suggest you dance with my sister.” Miss Bennet’s eyes shined with mirth. “And I might point out how utterly nonsensical it would be to marry a lady when you do not so much as know her Christian name. My sister and I are agreed to never marry a man out of his wits.”

The dance separated them, and Bingley considered how to respond to her tease.

“If that be the only obstacle to our union, then I am assured of our happiness, Diana.”

“I wish you every happiness with the mysterious Diana but am sad to say it is not I.”

As they waited for the others to go down the set, they continued with their game. Thirty minutes later, the set ended and Bingley had not correctly guessed Miss Bennet’s name. She turned to introduce him to her sister.

“This is my next youngest sister, Elizabeth. Lizzy, this is Mr. Bingley.”

Miss Elizabeth curtsied and greeted him with civility and good humour.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Elizabeth. Your sister tells me that you have a very charming wit and love to tease.”

Miss Elizabeth laughed. “Did she indeed?” She turned to Miss Bennet. “Jane! You surprise me!”

Bingley’s rejoiced at Miss Elizabeth’s use of her sister’s name. His eyes immediately met Jane’s. “You remind me a bit of my own sister, Miss Elizabeth. Already, I believe I have a very brotherly regard for you. Your sister, Jane, has made me look forward to this set.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow but merely glanced between Jane and Bingley. Jane blushed but did not look away from Bingley.

“Indeed?” Elizabeth said. “How else would you describe your dance with Jane?”

“Unforgettable,” he replied.

One year later, Bingley entered the Meryton Assembly hall with Jane by his side as Mrs. Bingley. “There,” he pointed to the centre of the room. “Right there was where I fell in love with you.”

“And I with you,” Jane smiled and squeezed his hand as they walked to the dance floor.

Blog guest- Lela Bay with Giveaway

I’m excited to host new to me author, Lela Bay. Ms. Bay writes Regency Romance and many other genres and shares insights between her work and Pride and Prejudice.

Regency Subtext

First, I’d like to thank Rose Fairbanks for allowing me to guest blog.
Although I write in many genres, Regency stories hold a special place in my heart. Much like a mystery, the story is often as much about what isn’t said as what is. Adhering to convention and propriety, people rarely speak bluntly about their feelings. When they do it has the force of an explosion, such as when Mr. Darcy finally breaks down to say he loves Elizabeth “ardently.”

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Of course, he goes on to ruin it by insulting her family.

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Mr. Darcy drove Bingley from Jane because he believed her to be indifferent. Certainly in that case, it would have helped if Jane had spoken up, or even alluded to her feelings. A little flirting might have saved everyone a great deal of trouble!

Mr. Darcy says to Elizabeth about her sister, “If it be so, if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable. But I shall not scruple to assert, that the serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

Both stories in Ruined Reputations play off the heroine being unable to speak her mind freely. In “Virtues Tempation,” Eleanor saves Bitsy from entering a hotel room with an unsuitable man and takes charge of the girl. When Mr. Stinson arrives like an avenging angel, she hopes he’s come to save the girl and escort them home. Then again, he could ruin Bitsy if word gets out. Eleanor treads lightly, trying to get a sense of him in the first moments they meet.

Excerpt

Eleanor wondered whether she sounded inane.

The frown between his eyebrows deepened, giving him a stormy grimness.

Her stomach sank. Perhaps she had been mistaken in talking with him. What if, when he learned Bitsy had been here, he spoiled the girl’s reputation? Her hands tightened on her purse strings, the hard object within reminding her that she must follow through.

He rose from his chair, stepping toward her with such purpose that she startled in her seat.

His frown deepened. “Apologies, it is just that I am eager for news. I am DeMontrey’s nearest neighbor and watch over his property while the family is away.”

“Oh, yes?” She hardly dared to breathe, struck by the tenseness of his clenched jaw as he watched the movement of her lips. “It has been my pleasure to travel recently with the youngest of the family, Elizabeth DeMontrey.”

Mr. Stinson dropped to his knee at her side. Her mind blanked as he leaned toward her.

His words lay gentle and intimate between them. “I am quite certain her family would be overjoyed Bitsy has made such a friend.”

Much to her own amazement, Eleanor has taken responsibility for young Bitsy, and now must chaperone her safely home. Traveling with Mr. Stinson, she finds it difficult to behave respectably but Bitsy’s reputation depends on her own.

If you enjoy Regency tales, I hope that you give my novella a chance and enjoy the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, interplay.

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RUINED REPUTATIONS BLURB
“Ruined Reputations is a love letter to high romance of the Brontes with the meticulous eye for detail that readers crave like oxygen itself.” MJ Sherry-author of the Back Page Babylon series

“A tantalizing pair of Regency tales” ~Emmy Z. Madrigal

–The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons–

Rumors of Mr. Aarons unconventional ways are confirmed when he nearly yanks the bonnet off Emmaline’s cousin’s head. Drawn by his charm and good looks, Emmaline finds herself assisting him in his mysterious mission.
His obscure search appears to lead to her cousin, beautiful Catherine Connersfield. She is the more sensible choice, but will she have him? More to the point, will Emmaline let her?

–Virtue’s Temptation–

Experience has taught Eleanor it’s better to be practical than passionate.
When she discovers Bitsy eloping with her French tutor, scandal threatens to ruin the girl.

To keep her reputation intact, Eleanor reluctantly chaperones the rebellious heiress.
Eleanor’s spotless character protects Bitsy, but behaving respectably proves difficult when tempted by the dangerously attractive Mr. Stinson.

If she fails it will end with … Ruined Reputations.

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Available in eBook and paperback.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079K7D8KS

Giveaway

Ms. Bay is offering three (3) e-book copies of Ruined Reputations. Please comment on the post to be entered. Entries close at 11:59 EST on 4/10/18.

Lela Bay Links
Blog: http://lelabayblog.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bay_lela
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/lelabay

lela_bay_tea_cropAbout Lela Bay
Lela lives in a modest house with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living in the far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.

She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor.

Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela.

Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride- Chapter One

mr. darcy's bluestocking bride.jpgHi Readers!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve had a story to post! First of all, I DO plan on completing Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy. I had some health and family complications earlier this year and then we moved (again) and somewhere along the way I lost my notes. However, I have recently found them and can finish the story as I intended! I plan to post again in July and we’ll do a bit of a Christmas in July posting. 🙂

Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride is a WIP with 17 chapters written and most of them through a beta. I can’t say for sure how many chapters there will be but I’m thinking 22-25 so I’m closing in on THE END. I’ve rated it MA just to be safe but so far there have been no kisses and I plan on fading to black for the wedding night. However, they’re both rather sexually aware. There is a moderate amount of couple angst.

Blurb: He’s on the hunt for a bluestocking, and she is no man’s fool.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, heir to a barony, must put aside his hatred for attention and Society and find a wife. Deemed the most eligible bachelor of the Season, he seeks high and low for a well-bred, intelligent woman to replace the one he determined unsuitable.

Elizabeth Bennet used to be certain of her judgement. In one day, everything changed. Her family might be in danger, and she needs a confidant. When she meets Darcy again and again in the groves of Rosings, her head says to tell Darcy everything, but her heart wonders if she can trust him.

As the clock works against them, can they find what they need in one another? Or will the duties of family and lingering secrets separate them?


My Dearest Niece,

Fear not, although Society may say you are ruined. Those who know you will always love you. When you return from France, it will all be forgotten. These sorts of scandals always are for girls with money and prestige. Do not think you are the first or last to face such concerns. Think of your future, my dear girl. You may be, perhaps, a little sadder but also wiser for the misadventure.

Your loving aunt,

A.F.

 

Chapter One

Elizabeth Bennet snatched the letter addressed to her from the mail tray in the hall and left Longbourn and all its noise behind. Reading letters from her dearest sister, Jane, now required solitude. Jane’s heart had been broken when their new neighbour, Mr. Bingley, left the area over three months before. After a month of sorrow, Jane had gone to London to visit with their aunt and uncle but her letters did not seem to indicate she was improving.

Mr. Bingley’s sister, who had seemed a dear friend to Jane, did not help matters. Before leaving Hertfordshire, Miss Bingley had written Jane a letter hinting that her brother had plans to marry his best friend’s sister. She reiterated the point when Jane called on Miss Bingley shortly after arriving in London.

Elizabeth’s lips curled up in memories of Mr. Bingley’s friend. That Mr. Darcy was friends with Mr. Bingley — himself everything amiable — ought to be a mark in Darcy’s favour. And yet, Mr. Bingley’s hasty retreat from Hertfordshire, followed directly by Darcy and Bingley’s relations whom he had left behind, just proved Bingley was too amiable for his own good. He would never see how Darcy treated all those around him. Elizabeth had been told that Darcy dare not surround himself with anyone but those that would stroke his ego.

Jane’s letter was uncharacteristically light and Elizabeth would likely finish reading it before she reached the nearby town of Meryton. She allowed herself a few minutes of reflection before opening it. She hoped Jane would be showing signs of forgetting Mr. Bingley’s impression on her heart. It was now March and surely three months in London could erase six weeks of flirtation in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth drew consolation from the fact that tomorrow she would leave for her journey to Kent to visit a newly married friend. She travelled with Charlotte’s father and sister but they intended to break in London and then Elizabeth would see for herself how Jane fared.

Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth broke the seal as she passed the lodge of Longbourn. Its tear-stained contents shocked and repulsed her.

Dearest Lizzy,

I write to you in the most melancholy of spirits. Yesterday, while shopping with my aunt, I espied Mr. and Miss Bingley outside a shop window. They were speaking with a lovely young lady, very elegantly dressed and I could see the evidence of her good breeding and proper manners. She stood with an older lady, who I must think is a companion or some relation. I cannot say for certain, but I wonder if this was not Miss Darcy.

I could perfectly see their expressions. Miss Bingley was very pleased to meet the lady, her brother scarcely less so. I saw in his countenance every expression of happiness and amiability he ever showed me. The young lady and her friend soon left.

Mr. and Miss Bingley came in the store with smiles still on their faces. They did not see me at first as I was mostly concealed by a display. I stepped out into the aisle to greet them. Instantly they ceased their movements and their smiles vanished. Mr. Bingley coloured but did not acknowledge me in any way although I had curtsied to them. Caroline tugged on her brother’s arm and they turned and quit the shop. It was so dreadful! My only consolation is that no one of our acquaintance saw it.

I now must say he had no true regard for me. I am quite distressed. I can only think myself a fool for believing otherwise. And to have my wishes so openly known by all my friends and family! He undoubtedly desired to leave the neighbourhood to avoid such rumours. I cannot blame him in the least for having a care about the credit of his name.

I know you will sit and think that it was all designedly done, but for what purpose? What could either the brother or the sister gain by making me believe in their affections? No, let me blame myself. I hope I was not so vain as to imagine this preference, perhaps though I only saw what I wished to see.

I hope this reaches you before you depart for London. I long to have my dearest sister with me.

Yours,

  1. Bennet

Elizabeth had never felt so much rage before in her life. Miss Bingley and her brother gave Jane the cut direct in a shop! Fortunately, it seemed there had been no witnesses but the very thought! Jane would excuse it though.

In the weeks since Mr. Bingley’s departure, Elizabeth had tried hard to reconcile the Mr. Bingley, whom she knew to be kind-hearted, with his treatment of Jane and friendship with Mr. Darcy. Jane would never listen to her arguments. Every time Elizabeth attempted to say perhaps Bingley was less than reliable, she was shushed. To Jane, anyone she loved or esteemed must be without fault.

Elizabeth rather saw faults in everyone. If not of character, then of circumstance. The charming Militia officer, Mr. Wickham, and his poor prospects served as an example. Of course, that resided squarely at Mr. Darcy’s feet. As repining the impossible benefitted nothing, Elizabeth had never let Wickham into her heart. She would always wish him the best and count him as a friend. Elizabeth even championed his courtship of the newly wealthy Miss Mary King in Meryton. After all, handsome young men must have something to live on as well as the plain.

All this thought of gentlemen irked Elizabeth. “What are men to rocks and mountains?” she said as she entered the edges of Meryton.

Reaching the outskirts of town, Elizabeth kicked a rock for good measure and instantly regretted it. Pain pierced her foot. Limping to an alley where she could slip off her boot and rub her sore toes, she was surprised to hear familiar voices of several of the officers carry from around the bend. What were they doing gathering in an alley?

“She wasn’t much to look at, but she was enthusiastic enough,” Captain Carter said.

“Most bar maids turned whores are for a few quid,” Mr. Wickham said and joined in with the laughter his words caused.

Elizabeth did not quite know what they were talking about, but it sounded coarse.

“And here I thought my equipment made her randy,” Mr. Denny said and another round of laughter ensued.

Instinctively, Elizabeth did not care for it. She was turning to limp away when she heard reason to stay.

“No, I don’t partake in that sort of sport,” Wickham said. “Now, Longbourn, there’s some apples ready for the picking.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed. Increasingly, she began to believe they spoke of carnal things and that connected with five gentlewomen in the same manner they spoke of a bar maid could never be a good thing.

“Too marriage-minded over there,” Denny warned.

“So much the easier then. A true seducer can turn a phrase just so a lady expects a marriage proposal but all she’s gotten is a tumble instead,” Wickham said.

“The Bennet chits are let on a loose leash. Their mother practically throws them at young men,” Carter said.

“Must be why that Bingley fellow ran off just after his ball,” Denny said. “A shame too. Chap certainly knew how to throw a good party.”

“And best of all, their father is too loose in the pockets to demand satisfaction!”

Elizabeth’s temper began to grow but she knew better than to confront such talk. There was nothing to do but listen to such humiliating talk of her family. She had to wonder at being cursed with such good hearing, however.

“It’s a shame they’re not the heiresses Mary King is,” said Wickham. “Wouldn’t mind keeping Eliza to warm my bed every night, even if she is a bit of a bluestocking.”

Tears sprang to Elizabeth’s eyes to be talked about in such a debased way in addition to the usual insult of bluestocking coming from a gentleman, nay, cad, she had thought friend.

“You’re not the only one who was tempted by her. Mr. Pompous Darcy and that parson danced with her at the ball.”

“That’s old news Carter.”

“Yes, but one of the Netherfield maids is sweet on me,” said Denny, “and she said that Miss Bingley was in fits of jealousy the entire time Miss Elizabeth was at Netherfield. Lucy said Miss Bingley often writes the housekeeper asking for information about the area and the Bennets in particular.”

“Well, there you go, Wickham,” said Captain Carter. “Darcy left because he knew you would win the challenge for Miss Elizabeth’s affections. You ought to claim your prize!” A round of raucous laughter rang out.

“Oh, I have far better idea,” Wickham said but dropped his voice. Elizabeth inched forward to hear better, hoping her boots didn’t scrape against the stone pavement. “Eliza is too intelligent for such a plot, she would know enough to want a real wedding…but Lydia. Lydia I could convince to elope.”

“What do you get out of that?” Carter asked.

“Eliza will be going to Hunsford soon. Darcy’s aunt is her cousin’s patroness and I know he visits every Easter. Eliza is no fool and neither is that sharp eyed friend of hers. She snatched up Collins right away. Between the two of them, they can help Darcy along. Once they’re engaged, I can make off with Lydia and Darcy will pay to patch the whole thing up.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open while the men sniggered.

“And once she’s tired of her dour husband, I will play on her affections as well. Mark my words, boys, I will not be wearing red for much longer.”

“You are debauched, my friend!” Carter said as the men finally walked away.

Elizabeth stood in the alley with her back pressed against the wall for a long while. She could not credit what she heard. Was this what men talked of? Was it as harmless as the gossip she heard from ladies like her Aunt Phillips?

However, Elizabeth knew even in that case there were always shades of truth. Her sisters were given too much freedom, her mother too eager to put them out, and her father too willing to laugh at their follies. They had no fortune and no brothers to demand satisfaction from a rake. If not Wickham and these officers, then surely it made them open to be preyed upon by others. Bingley’s treatment of Jane was proof enough that men cruelly use women.

In time, her heartrate returned to a normal beat and her breathing calmed. Lydia would know better than to elope and to a man without fortune. Besides, how would they ever be alone enough for such a thing to transpire? Behaving silly at a ball was not the same sort of thing as an elopement. And Lydia could never keep a secret to save her life! Elizabeth considered telling her father but decided to act as though she had never heard such ridiculous things. She could not take Wickham’s words seriously and had no proof. Certainly, her father knew more about men and had seen no reason to distrust the officers. Still, Elizabeth hoped to avoid Wickham at the dinner her mother had invited him to that evening. She never wanted to speak with him again.

 

*****

 

“Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, sit with your old aunt,” Baroness Darcy said to her sister’s grandchildren when she saw them enter her evening soiree. They were her only family left.  The “children” obeyed. “I know you leave for Kent soon, Fitzwilliam. Do you go as well, Georgiana?”

“Not this year, Aunt,” the young lady said with downcast eyes.

“Chin up. Darcys are never to feel inferior,” Lady Darcy said. “At the rate Fitzwilliam is going, you shall be the next Baroness.”

“Spare me your matchmaking, Aunt. Lady Catherine will give me ear full enough when I arrive in Kent,” Darcy let out an exasperated sigh. “Besides, mother and father were both thirty when they married and I have some two years until then. And you have never married.”

“That is because there were no young men like you, my boy,” the aging lady said with an affectionate pat on her favourite nephew’s cheek. The action, and his expression at the endearment, made Georgiana giggle.

“Much more like it, young lady. Will you play this evening?”

“Oh no! I could never perform before all these people. They are only in the habit of hearing the very best.”

Darcy could see Georgiana’s fear but her words were reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet’s words at a dinner in Hertfordshire. He had thought she teased, but had she been afraid of his opinion? During his time in the area, Darcy had feared he had been too obvious in his admiration for her. Darcy believed that his friend’s sister, who long had designs on him, had not been the only one to notice how much he liked Elizabeth.

His aunt’s words broke his reverie. “Then play your own composition and no one can claim to have heard a better rendition of it!” Lady Darcy exclaimed.

“Aunt,” Darcy chided. “Georgiana, our aunt only intends to tease.”

“Do I? And I suppose you believe you can speak for me? I had thought you were raised better.”

“Please do not be cross with Fitzwilliam,” Georgiana said. “He would never presume to know better than a social superior.”

“Social superior! Is that the rubbish you learn at schools now? Fitzwilliam, you must give her proper companionship. Georgiana, I mean he ought to know better than to speak for a woman, not just a peeress.”

Darcy smiled at his aunt’s gentle scolding and held up a hand. “Of course, I now you are a rational creature with your own mind. I have no doubt you speak from your heart.”

Years ago, Darcy’s aunt had been part of a circle of intellectual women who hosted a salon. Instead of the usual political wrangling and gambling, they promoted the arts. Several of the hostesses became renowned artists and writers. In the Darcy family, the term bluestocking was no insult. The same could not be said for his Fitzwilliam family. However, they had always liked the Darcy purse.

“I knew there was good Darcy blood in you,” the Baroness said.

“Now, you know it is a commandment to obey your elders and so you must indulge an old lady. My one regret in not having children of my own is that there is no one to take up my torch when I’m gone.”

Georgiana screwed up her face in confusion. “I thought Fitzwilliam was your heir?”

“Of the title and the money, of course. I mean of my passion!” Lady Darcy paused and nodded at another titled lady who walked past them and toward the card tables.

“Music?” Georgiana asked.

“Music, writing, art. Female artists funded by females.”

Darcy tugged on his cravat. These days, talk of women pursuing such things for intellectual stimulation, income, or world renown was akin to espousing favour for France’s Revolution. The ones who could most support such a project happened to fear for their necks.

“Fitzwilliam, I’m putting you to work. Bring me the brightest young women you can find of good stock and decent income and I will fashion them into patronesses.”

“If I could find such a young woman, I would marry her,” Darcy said even as a pair of fine, dancing eyes came to mind. However, Elizabeth Bennet did not come from good family or decent income.

“What’s the matter with him, Georgie?”

Darcy blinked to find his aunt studying him closely.

Georgiana rolled her eyes. “That’s the look on his face whenever he thinks of her.

“Her? Are you courting a lady and did not tell me?”

“Of course not, Aunt. You know you would be the first to know anything I do.” He tried to remain serious but his subtle smirk gave away his sarcastic words and immediately Georgiana and his aunt were grinning.

“La! You make me sound a pest! I will not be like your other aunt then and meddle in your business. You do not have to tell me who, but if Georgie’s female intuition tells her you are sweet on a girl, you cannot hide it for long.”

Darcy tugged on his cravat again. With any luck, he would not remain sweet on her for much longer. Surely there was someone who met his qualifications for a wife. The problem was, now that his aunt had stated who she looked for in intellectual companions, Darcy could not help but notice they were the same as what he always said he wanted in a wife. And while he would always desire an intelligent wife, a spouse was something far different than a philosophical colleague. No lady had peaked his interest in eight and twenty years the way Elizabeth Bennet had. Perhaps choosing a wife involved some undefinable quality, an attraction as well as intellectual compatability.

“I think we have him thinking on her again, Georgie,” his aunt teased and Darcy scowled.

“Tell me more about this project of yours, Aunt. We are to go to the theatre tomorrow, perhaps we might find a lady who suits your demands.”

“That’s the problem with you,” she said after an exasperated sigh.

“What is?”

Georgiana laughed at him. “Everyone knows most who frequent the theatre care little about the plays. They go just to be seen.”

“And where would you expect a true appreciator of theatre to go?”

“They might go,” Lady Darcy said, “but they would not be so bold as to confess the reason.”

“How preposterous! Do you think so meanly of your sex?”

The Baroness laughed at him. “I have years more experience than you do, my boy. I know such a lady is a diamond of the first water. There is a disadvantage to this generation. In my day, ladies fought hard to receive any education. The ones who persevered beyond basic letters and math were often taught by their fathers or their brothers’ tutors. Now, ladies’ heads are filled with false accomplishments and vain pursuits. I fear it is impossible to find a learned lady who is not muddled with such mush.”

“Could not the same be said of gentlemen? Now, everyone attends school and University but few come out with any true greater understanding and mastery of the subjects.”

“The essential point, Fitzwilliam, is that when they are taught it is to be of use to their estate, profession or the country. Ladies so called “refined” education is to be of use in only this,” she waved her hand around at the drawing room.

Various clusters of people congregated together. One group played Commerce, another Whist. A third group sat near the fire and discussed politics. One lord’s wife winked at a member of parliament of the opposite party and then leaned in close. The scene suggested exchanging favours for votes.

One day, Darcy would inherit the barony first created for John Darcy in 1317, and God help him if Pemberley or any home he resided in took on such a scene. His aunt was very much correct. Ladies were not encouraged to think beyond empty, or sometimes immoral — whether seducing an opponent or a man to the altar — pursuits.

Aware he had been silent too long, Darcy addressed his aunt with his purpose in coming this evening. “I have been wondering, Aunt, do you have any suggestions for a companion for Georgiana? As you know, I resisted finding a replacement for Mrs. Younge, but you have convinced me that her education might be lacking.”

“Of course. I will have a list with references drawn up when you return from Kent.” Do not worry,” she said when Georgiana furrowed her brow, “you shall help decide. Now, I have ignored my guests for long enough. Do try to enjoy yourselves before you leave,” she said as she stood.

With all the grace and poise an eighty-year-old baroness could muster, she walked through the room. When the group at the fire seemed to grow too contentious, she redirected the more outspoken ones to the supper room. Those prone to gambling too high were arranged near the fire, away from the card tables. Indeed, no school could teach such instincts. Magdalena Darcy, tenth Baroness Darcy de jure, might be the last of her kind and her heir apparent could only hope the next Baroness Darcy might be just as capable.


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Inspired by Grace review

I’ve enjoyed all of Jeanna Ellsworth’s previous stories. Mr. Darcy’s Promise holds a special place in my heart, especially. So when I saw that Jeanna was publishing again, I was eager to have her on the blog. She asked if I would do a review and we decided that as a fellow author I could do an editorial review. This one will not have a star ranking, and I won’t be posting it on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. but Jeanna may use it as she wishes.

IIBGnspired by Grace features what every great love story needs. True love requires the other person to pick up where you leave off. They can be your strength when you have nothing left. Ten years ago, Grace and Gavin were the best of friends and just beginning to breach that “something else” of young lovers. Their happily ever after was interrupted by a death in Grace’s family. Finally meeting by accident after so long a separation, they are put to the test as their old feelings re-emerge. However, people do grow and change over the course of ten years. Can you really trust someone after such a separation? Can the love last? Can it conquer everything?

Ellsworth chooses an innovative storyline as the heroine and hero are both old lovers and new lovers at once. The characters are immensely likable on their own, but when they come together, they somehow can be prone to brief periods of misunderstanding each other allowing them to be admirable but flawed. I’ll admit, there were a few times when it seemed Ellsworth would test my limits on what I was willing to endure for these two but on the very next page things had turned a corner. Indeed, it kept me turning the pages. The story is not just lovebirds cooing, however. When it seems like outside forces may destroy their happiness once more, they learn to lend grace and find strength in the other. I really enjoyed Ms. Ellsworth’s first foray into original work Regency Romance and can’t wait to see what she presents us with next!