Today, Jan concludes a vignette that was begun on her first stop of the tour over at Ceri's blog, Babblings of a Bookworm. If you haven't had a chance to read Part One, the link is here and below.
Once again Jan, I'm so glad to have you visit. Welcome to More Agreeably Engaged.
Thanks so much to you, Janet, for hosting me and Mendacity & Mourning here at More Agreeably Engaged. Part One of this vignette, featuring scenes that don’t appear in the book but are alluded to, appeared at Babblings of a Bookworm on June 19.
In this scene, an outtake from chapter six, Darcy parries with his cousin about the goings-on in (and the ladies of) Hertfordshire.
Games, Part Two
“So let me understand this. You passed not one, nay two, but four afternoons at the Bennets, eating cakes, making moony eyes, and playing games?”
“No,” Darcy replied irritably. “Hurst ate cake, Bingley made moony eyes, and I played chess.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and stepped back to examine his foil. “Chess is not a game,” he said solemnly.
“Oh no, chess is a battlefield of wood and ivory. Chess, like fencing, is a rich man’s substitute for war.” The colonel loosened his grip on his own weapon, sauntered over to the bench where he’d dropped his coat. Breathing heavily, he sat down and leaned over to adjust his boot. “Poorly made Hessians,” he grumbled under his breath.
Darcy bit back a chuckle and settled on a jibe. “Does this conversation on chess hold some meaning, old man?”
His cousin leaned back and looked at him carefully. “Was the company so deficient at Netherworld that the only matches you could make were in a houseful of ladies? Eligible young ladies? Or were you there simply to assist Bingley? And what of Hurst?”
“Did our corps à corps damage your brain?” Darcy gave him a piercing look. “It is Netherfield. Bingley’s estate is called Netherfield.”
Richard waved his hand. “Netherworld, Netherfield. The name is of little matter, it is leased. Answer my questions.”
Darcy sighed and sank down onto the bench. “If you needed to rest, you might have been clearer.” He gazed across the vast room, taking in the handful of other men practicing their skills with sword and foil. He recognised one man, a minor duke known for spouting inane insults while playing cards, quite badly, with men of far great skill. The fool’s honor has been challenged.
“As to your questions,” he began, “Mrs. Bennet sets a fine table and takes pleasure in exhibiting her cook’s many talents. Hurst found a kindred spirit there in a Mr. Collins, the cousin to Mr. Bennet, who enjoyed the repasts there for many weeks. Long, unbearable weeks, according to the Bennet sisters.”
“Ho!” Richard sat up straight. “You are a confidant to these young ladies?”
Darcy stared at his cousin, his eyes hard and flinty. The other man stared back, slowly crossing his eyes until—as he had since he was a boy—Darcy began to laugh at the sight. Then he caught himself and scowled. “You, old man, are quite predictable in eyeballing battles. It makes you quite the hapless chess player. Shall I fear for you in France, that the soldiers will guess your every strategy?”
“I worry more for yours, cousin. You lack a certain strategy. A grand plan.”
Bingley has a plan, Darcy thought. He has met a lady of fair and luminous beauty, a kind demeanor, and a bottomless well of prim smiles. She was perfectly fine for his friend. But not for him.
He laughed quietly.
“What is it?”
“Bingley. He apprised me of the simple recipe for a woman to end my yearnings.”
“A pretty girl with a happy disposition, a dislike of dancing, a love of books, and patience for my dark moods and odd ramblings on Greek philosophy and chess manoeuvers,” Darcy said quietly. “Or somesuch thing. I should have had him write it down but his handwriting suffers such a lack of clarity.”
“As does his brain, yet I believe he is onto something here.” Richard noted his cousin’s expression, which he might have called wistful on a weaker, more romantic man. He shifted his eyes back to the fencers across the room and swore under his breath at the ungainly parries made by a large heavy man. “Swivel-eyed drumbelo,” he muttered.
Darcy ignored him, content for his mind to drift to Elizabeth Bennet and the flash of mirth in her eyes when she spoke solemnly of the burnt books of Netherfield and the insouciant turn of her lips when Miss Bingley tutted about the low thresholds and dearth of quality lace in small country towns.
She is remarkable.
“Zooks!” Richard whistled. “You do have a plan.”
“I have no such thing. I have a goal, to find myself a wife.”
“Apparently one who plays chess and is as inscrutable as you is perfect.” His moustache twitched. “Might I add to Bingley’s list that you find one with good teeth, a high tolerance for grumpiness, and her own generous set of bosoms?”
Darcy rolled his eyes. “Your needs and demands in a lady are quite low, Richard. Rather like your endurance for this match.” He rose and strode a few feet away before bowing. “Shall we?”
Richard jumped up, his sword firmly in hand. “Oh yes. And with my inevitable victory will come further revelations.”
At Darcy’s glare, he relented. “Fine, then. Some of your best port.”
An hour later, upon reaching Darcy House, the host served the loser only his third-best port. His cousin was none the wiser.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.
This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.
Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.
Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.
06/19 Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20 My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22 From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23 More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24 Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25 Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26 Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27 Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29 My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
06/30 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
07/01 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02 Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03 Diary of an Eccentric; Review
Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks and the giveaway is international. Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mendacity & Mourning by J. L. Ashton. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and again, the giveaway is international.
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Thank you, Jan, for supplying us with the most delightful ending to the vignette. I laughed several times reading the cousins' banter. It was fun! I'm so happy you got to pop in on your busy blog tour and I hope you are having a great time. I wish you much success with your new release. It seems to be getting great reviews and that is fantastic. Congratulations. I look forward to what else you have in store for us.
I have to say that the cover of your book, both front and back, makes me ponder many things. What do the peacock and the tiger have to do with the book? Why is the paper torn down the middle and what does that signify? I have some thoughts on that one but no clue on the others.Then on the back cover...who is that lady in the painting and why are the two people looking at her the way they are? She must have something to do with peacocks because of the background in her painting. Questions, questions, and more questions. I think I must read the book to find the answers to this intriguing cover.
Dear Readers, I hope you will stop by the other blogs and enter for more chances to win an eBook of Mendacity & Mourning.