Monday, November 26, 2018

To Conquer Pride...Jennifer Altman

Today is a special day at More Agreeably Engaged. Author Jennifer Altman is celebrating the release of her debut novel, To Conquer Pride and today is the day! This is also Jennifer's "debut" visit here. It is great to have her visit with us.

I am so thrilled to be participating in your blog tour, Jennifer. I also hear that you have a special treat for us today. I know my readers are going to be as excited about it as I have been. I will wait until after the excerpt to share the rest of the news!

Thanks again for letting me be part of your tour and congratulations on your new novel. 

Jennifer: Hi Janet! Thanks so much for hosting me today to celebrate the release of my debut novel, To Conquer Pride—and a HUGE thank you to author Joana Starnes who has agreed to participate in today’s interview.  

I thought I’d start with a brief excerpt from the book, and then we’ll get right down to business. :)

Some of you may have read the opening of To Conquer Pride over at Austenesque Reviews (if not, you can check it out here, but to catch you up, the story begins seven months after Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. Darcy and Elizabeth have met by chance at a coaching inn in Kent and certain unforeseen circumstances have led to them being stranded together in an abandoned cottage during a snowstorm. I hope you enjoy!

To Conquer Pride – Excerpt

The fire had long since burned down and the room was becoming cold. Darcy glanced over at Elizabeth, asleep in her chair. Several chestnut curls had escaped their pins and now rested against one rosy cheek. Even in repose, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld. His eyes roamed her body, and warmth ignited in his chest. He would have liked to say that what he felt was a chaste sort of tenderness but strictly speaking, that would be untrue. He could not look at her—long lashes impossibly dark against her fair skin, the neckline of her gown slipping from one shoulder—and not feel a certain degree of carnal longing. But to his surprise, there was a stronger feeling holding the physical desire at bay. Watching Elizabeth, a fierce sense of protectiveness surged within him, and he knew in that moment that he would stop at nothing to keep her safe.

He turned his attention to the mantelpiece. The pistol from the carriage still rested atop the roughhewn surface. He had attempted to press it upon his footman, but Thomas had refused the weapon. Now, Darcy was glad to have it. Elizabeth was under his care, and although he would gladly inflict bodily harm with his bare hands if it came to that, the pistol would make things easier.

His gaze returned to Elizabeth’s sleeping form. As he watched, the shadow of a smile hovered at the corners of her lips and a feeling of guilt stirred in Darcy’s chest. He should not be staring at her as she slept. Observing her in such a vulnerable state was clearly an invasion of her privacy. Such intimacies were the privilege of a husband—or a lover—and heaven knew he was neither of those. Nor would he ever be.

The muscles in his throat constricted and he forced himself to look away. No, that honor would belong to some other man.

Closing his eyes, Darcy drew a ragged breath. The scent of wood-smoke filled his lungs, mingling with the lingering aroma from their dinner. Ignoring the burning in his ribcage, he inhaled again, this time picking up the subtle hint of wildflowers and lemon. God, he needed to remember that smell!

A log popped against the grate and he opened his eyes. Across the room a fly buzzed, futilely thumping against the sealed windowpane. Fingering the armrests of his chair, Darcy stared at the once-bright colors of the hearth rug, long since faded to a single muted hue. Slowly he adjusted his position, turning to survey the modest parlor. An old rocking chair sat beside a scarred wooden table and a small writing desk was tucked in a corner beneath the eaves.

It wasn’t much, but he felt a sudden uncontrollable urge to memorize every detail. To imprint this place upon his consciousness, to hold it tight within his heart, so that someday, in ten or twenty or thirty years, when he was feeling sentimental, he could call up every sight and sound and smell and touch. Every precious moment of the one night he had been exactly where he longed to be—alone with the woman he loved.
~ * ~

What a lovely excerpt. Doesn't it make you want to read more? Thank you, Jennifer for sharing it with us.

Now for the added treat...welcome author Joana Starnes! She is joining us today. Joana and Jennifer delight us with a question and answer session. Welcome, ladies!


Joana: Many thanks, Janet, you’re ever so kind to welcome us here today to celebrate the launch of Jennifer’s debut novel together!

What a soulful excerpt, Jennifer, and what a poignant beginning to the launch post! How can we not love a deeply vulnerable Mr Darcy in silent and heartrending contemplation of what he had lost? Your Mr Darcy is an absolute delight, and one of the reasons I loved this story from the moment you shared the WIP with me.

To Conquer Pride is an ever so moving portrayal of our favourite characters learning to overcome their errors and misconceptions and finally finding their way to each other and to their happily ever after

I’ve been looking forward to seeing it published for quite some time, and it was my absolute pleasure to share what I knew about indie publishing, introduce you and your beautiful story to Meredith, Janet, Rita and Ceri and put you in touch with Susan Adriani, whose covers are such exquisite works of art! Huge thanks, lovely ladies, for kindly hosting the blog tour, and Susan – oh my, what a gem! By the way, Jennifer, I hope your debut novel will come out in paperback soon. I’d love to get a better look at that gorgeous cover.

But now let’s hear a little more about how this story came to be:

JS: What was your inspiration for To Conquer Pride?

JA: As I touched on in my previous blog post at Austenesque Reviews, I’d been reading JAFF for years before I ever had an inkling that I’d take a stab at writing an Austen-inspired novel. But during the time when I was first discovering the genre, I read a short piece by Jack Caldwell called Snowbound that I absolutely adored. The story had Darcy and Elizabeth trapped in an abandoned cabin during a freak snowstorm, and the premise stayed with me long after I finished reading. Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about that story was that it ended. I wanted MORE and I kept wishing that it had been the jumping-off point for a full-length novel. So, when I decided to try writing a P&P variation of my own, that premise was immediately what came to mind. I should probably add that the idea of having Darcy and Elizabeth stranded together (in a snowstorm, rainstorm, locked in a library, etc.) is not new. I think the thing that appeals to so many of us about this trope is that it gives us the opportunity to see how these two characters interact when they’re alone together… and in an era when it was not socially acceptable for unmarried men and women to really ever be alone together, it also adds an element of the forbidden. And what could be more awkward and uncomfortable than running into the person you’ve humiliated yourself in front of, and then ending up trapped in a cottage with them. The premise was just brimming with possibilities! (Note: If you’re interested in checking out Snowbound, you can find it here.)

            JS: Oh, I love Snowbound and I love your reasons for having Darcy and Elizabeth    stranded together – the delicious element of the forbidden, the awkwardness and above all, the possibilities!

JS: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline or go wherever the story idea takes you?

JA: LOL! Pantser, unfortunately. To Conquer Pride is only my second attempt at writing a novel (the first was a middle grade contemporary fantasy which may never see the light of day), so I don’t have a vast amount of experience in this, but I didn’t outline either of my books. With both of the novels I’ve written, I knew the beginning and the end…and I had a few key plot points I wanted to hit in the middle…but it was pretty much winging it after that. :) And with To Conquer Pride, I went one step further and wrote many of the scenes out of order, which made revising, er…a most unpleasant experience. So, I’m thinking with the next book, I may force myself to do at least some form of an outline. I don’t want to stifle creativity too much, but I think it will make revisions a heck of a lot easier.

            JS: Goodness, yes, I know, that’s a bit of a nightmare, writing the scenes out of          order and then fitting them together. The revision stage must have been tricky, but all that hard work was more than worth it. You made the story flow seamlessly and so beautifully!

JS: Which section or aspect of your debut novel dragged you to your desk, begging to be written?

JA: As I mentioned above, I wrote a lot of TCP out of order, so if a scene popped into my head, I usually tried to get it down immediately (even if I knew it was going to come later in the book) because otherwise I was afraid I wouldn’t remember it with the same clarity I had when I first imagined it. I did write the first five chapters sequentially, but after that, I actually skipped to a pivotal scene that occurs in a garden at Pemberley towards the end of the book. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I decided to write a P&P variation, the one thing I knew was that I wanted to give Darcy the opportunity to redeem himself from that disastrous first proposal, and I wanted to give Elizabeth the chance to hear Darcy express his true feelings in the way (I felt) he should have from the beginning. So, that was the scene that was really begging to be written. And since I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after the first few chapters, that’s the scene I jumped to. The interesting thing is that with all the revisions I’ve done on this novel, that scene remains almost exactly as I first wrote it, and it is also one of my favorites in the book.

            JS: Mine too! It was so wonderful to see Mr Darcy redeeming himself (and then        some) with a very gentlemanly and heartfelt second proposal.

JS: I couldn’t help noticing that you love to torture Mr. Darcy (and Elizabeth a bit, too ;)). Would you tell us why?

JA: Hmm… Torture is a strong word. :) I guess I’d prefer to say that I like to see Mr. Darcy made vulnerable. I tend to enjoy writing injuries and illnesses into my books… I think because they are the ultimate equalizers. When someone is debilitated in some way and forced to rely upon another person, it tends to humble them—something that I think certainly works well with the Pride and Prejudice storyline. Also, one thing that really resonates with me when it comes to Darcy and Elizabeth is that they both realize they have brought their misery upon themselves. So, in a way, I think a lot of that “torture” is self-inflicted. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a tortured Darcy?)

JS: Who, indeed ;)? You make a great point about the ultimate equalizers, and I absolutely loved the scenes where you portrayed Mr Darcy’s difficulty in relinquishing control and relying on others – especially Elizabeth. And I’m not talking just about the cottage scenes, but also about a deeply moving one towards the end. I won’t dream of spoiling your readers’ enjoyment, so my lips are sealed!

JS: I hope you’re already writing or planning to write another JAFF book. If so, which novel will it be inspired by, and can we have a peek?

JA: Well, I haven’t put anything down on paper yet (mostly because all my time and energy has been spent trying to get TCP revised and out into the world) but, yes, I do plan to write another Pride and Prejudice variation. Again, in my usual pantser fashion, I don’t have an outline in place (yet!) but I do have a general idea of where I want the story to go and I can tell you that this one will involve Darcy and Elizabeth marrying early in the book, and falling in love afterwards. I don’t want to call it a forced marriage scenario, because they will marry of their own free will (for their own separate reasons) but as in canon, their mutual pride and prejudice make it difficult for them to initially see how well suited they are. So, that’s the plan. But I have lots of ideas floating around inside my head, so I reserve the right to change my mind! 

            JS: Let’s call it an ‘early marriage scenario’, then. You’re right, ‘forced’ doesn’t       quite suit when they both agree to it of their own free will. Oh, I love early marriage      scenarios, when they have to live together before they know how, and before they discover they are each other’s perfect match and realise they’re head over heels in love. It gives them plenty of opportunities to ‘hurt each other’s feelings in a rich variety of ways,’ to quote Jami Dragan again (as I warned her I would :). I LOVE that phrase!!!).

Jennifer: And now I’m turning the tables! Joana has graciously agreed to answer a few questions of her own. :)

JA: Describe your writing process: How often do you write? Time of day? Special location? Music or silence? Longhand or on the computer?

JS: I write as often as I can. Mostly in the mornings, when everyone’s gone to work or school, the house is quiet and I can hear the voices in my head. No music, it distracts me from the voices :). I’m not too fussy about the location. What works best is sitting in the back garden with my coffee (and a couple of foraging pigeons) and ‘watching’ the scenes unfold, then rushing to my PC to type them in, but I also tend to walk around with a big notebook and lots of pens in my bag, just in case, or hide away in a couple of favourite coffee shops to write.

JA: LOL! Maybe best not to tell people about the “voices!” :) And I agree about the music, I can’t do it either. I know writers who come up with actual playlists for their books that they put on when they write… but that would be way too distracting for me! I can’t even do the coffee shop. I like total peace and quiet.

JA: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline your books before you write them, or go wherever the idea takes you?

JS: I love that, ‘plotter or pantser’! (I loved it so much that I had to ask you the same question). I think I’m a bit of both. I write down the pivotal moments and the direction I’m expecting the story to take, but then I tend to go freestyle from one main point to the next, follow a general idea and see where it takes me. It’s great fun, especially when I don’t find myself where I imagined I would be. Only two things are set in stone: there has to be a HEA, and it must be Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s.

JA: Sounds similar to my method. And, yes! Always a HEA. Otherwise the readers would string us up. :)

JA: Who is your favorite Austen character (NOT from Pride and Prejudice) and why?

JS: Oh dear, not from P&P? Then it’s got to be Mr Knightley. He is dependable, resilient, loyal, tolerant of many foibles (Emma’s and many other people’s), he shows more maturity and consistent goodness than Mr Darcy (I can’t believe I said that, but I have to, because I think it’s true) and puts love before self from the very beginning, without the need of some great epiphany.

JA: Yes! I knew I liked you! I LOVE Mr. Knightley. I love how he sees the best in Emma and really pushes her to be the finest version of herself. *swoon!*

JA: Which of your books took you the most time to write?

JS: Probably my first. It took me years from the start to the final version. But I don’t think that counts. I wasn’t really trying to write a book then. It was more like trying to keep the P&P magic going in my head for as long as possible. If I discount the amount of time I spent daydreaming on my first, the one that took me most to write was my latest. It’s in a different style than my other books, and with a more complex (and wilder) plot.

JA: Honestly, I think that’s how all of us start: Just trying to keep the P&P magic going as long as possible. Also, now I don’t feel so badly about the three years I spent on TCP!

JA: What are you working on now? Can you give us a brief teaser? 

JS: I’m working on an idea I had several years ago, in the winter of 2013, when I came across some stunning scenery: dark clouds hanging very low over the countryside, just before a raging storm. This variation starts a few months after the Hunsford proposal, with Darcy and Elizabeth crossing paths a little sooner than in P&P. The other main difference is that Elizabeth is much quicker to recognise her feelings and admit to herself there was attraction from the start, before Darcy went and ruined everything with ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me…’.

Sounds like plain-sailing from here, right? Well, it would be, if I weren’t so tempted to go back to the old habit of torturing them, especially Darcy. In my opinion, yearning for Elizabeth is what he does best, so I can’t help it, I have to imagine him simmering, with his legendary self-control hanging by a thread. It’s not fair on him, I know, but where’s the fun in jumping straight to the ‘happily ever after’? ;)

JA: Ah! Thank you for sharing that little tidbit. And I think I speak for many, many people when I say: Write faster! :)

Lightening Round – Jennifer’s Answers

·         Coffee or tea? Coffee (or iced tea).

·         Cats or dogs? Dogs. (Sorry, cat lovers!)

·         Early riser or night owl? Night owl.

·         Wine or beer? Wine.

·         Text or talk? Text.

·         Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.

·         Paper books or e-books? I hate to say it, but e-books.

·         Ice cream or cake? Ice cream!

·         Reading or writing? Reading. Writing is work!

·         Gold or silver? Silver.

·         City or country? Both. :)

·         Fruits or vegetables? Veggies.

·         TV or film? Film… unless it’s a British period drama, then TV.

·         Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.

·         Pool or sea? To relax beside: sea. To swim in: pool.

·         Fall or spring? Spring.

Lightening Round – Joana’s Answers

·         Coffee or tea? Coffee.

·         Cats or dogs? Dogs in theory, but I wouldn’t have to take a cat out for daily walks, so the jury’s still out on that one.

·         Early riser or night owl? Early riser, mostly.

·         Wine or beer? Wine.

·         Text or talk? Talk.

·         Chocolate or vanilla? Oh, chocolate, always.

·         Paper books or e-books? Both.

·         Ice cream or cake? Ice cream.

·         Reading or writing? Depends if inspiration strikes.

·         Gold or silver? Gold.

·         City or country? Country.

·         Fruits or vegetables? Fruits.

·         TV or film? TV.

·         Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.

·         Pool or sea? Sea.

·         Fall or spring? Both, but I love spring more.
~ * ~

Thanks for having us, Janet! To Conquer Pride released today in eBook form with a print version to follow. You can order by clicking here.

About the Author:

Jennifer Altman is a novelist, an anglophile, and a love of all thinks Regency. After a long career in the television industry, Jennifer shifted to book publishing in 2016. She currently works in the corporate division of a large publishing company. Jennifer makes her home in New York City where she lives in a small apartment with a considerable collection of books. When she's not writing, Jennifer can be found reading, watching British period dramas, and not cleaning her house. To Conquer Pride is her debut novel. 

You can connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter.

To Conquer Pride Blog Tour: 

·       November 19th: Austenesque Reviews – Cover reveal, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 26th: More Agreeable Engaged – Author interview with Joana Starnes, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 29th: From Pemberley to Milton – Book review, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 30th: Babblings of a Bookworm – “Ask Me Anything” author interview, book excerpt, giveaway.


It's giveaway time! Today we have a double giveaway going to one lucky winner! Jennifer is giving away one copy of the eBook version of To Conquer Pride, and Joana will be giving a way a Kindle copy of one of her books (winner's choice) or an audio-code for the download of one of the six books she has available in Audible. (all narrated by the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman) The giveaway is international. IN order to be entered to win, please post a comment below.

What a special giveaway, ladies! Readers, good luck to each of you. The giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M. Central Time on the 2nd of December!

Jennifer, thank you for visiting today. Joana, thank you for your part in today's post. It was lovely to share the experience with both of you. The questions and answers were awesome! I learned more about you both and that was such fun. The excerpt was quite heartrending. Poor Darcy. Jennifer, are you going to be as adept at "torturing" Darcy as dear Joana? :) How she does love to make him suffer! 

Best wishes to you, Jennifer, on today's release of your debut novel, To Conquer Pride. I hope we will be seeing more of you in the future. Please come back for a visit anytime.

Thanks again, ladies, for such a delightful post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mr. Darcy's Enchantment...Cover Reveal

Dear Readers, you are in for such a treat today! Not only is Abigail Reynolds my guest for the first time, we get to reveal the cover for her new book, Mr. Darcy's Enchantment! Isn't that awesome! You are going to love this cover! It is absolutely beautiful, and I'm honored to host Abigail and her cover reveal today. Before the unveiling, let's take a look at the blurb.

By the way, if you haven't had a chance to read Chapter Two, it posted on my blog Monday. Abigail's blog was down so she posted here. Be sure to follow the link and read Chapter Two

Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment blurb:

In a Regency England where magic and faeries are real…

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a powerful magician who controls fire, water, and wind. What he cannot control is his growing feelings for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. 

Elizabeth’s sentiments towards Darcy are quite different. She detests his arrogance, and she fears he will expose her use of forbidden magic - forbidden to women, that is. He is the last man in the world she would choose to help her on a difficult and dangerous task.

But when a magical war looms between the land of Faerie and their world, a Lord of Faerie demands that Darcy and Elizabeth serve together as his emissaries to make peace with the other mortals. That mission throws them into the middle of a chaotic power struggle between magicians whose power dwarfs their own, and everything Elizabeth has ever believed about her family, her friends, and her enemies will be called into question.

Doesn't this sound good? I can't wait to read it. How about you? I'll turn the floor over to Abigail Reynolds and let her tell you a bit about the cover.

I was worried about what to put on the cover of Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment the entire time I was writing it. I wanted the cover to clearly indicate that the book is both Regency and fantasy. I used every search term I could think of on stock photo sites trying to find an image that would work for the fantasy aspect – fairy, fay, Titania, sylph, dryad, fairyland, elf, and dozens of others. After spending hours and hours without success, I contacted my cover designer, Jane Dixon-Smith, and said that I thought I was going to need original artwork for this cover because I couldn’t find any pictures to suit it. Instead, she told me the secret password, which was to search the sites for ‘wood nymph.’ Lo and behold, within an hour I’d found more images than I could ever use! Jane made a gorgeous cover out of one of them. It’s my favorite of all the covers I’ve ever had! I love the way Elizabeth and the dryad reflect each other, with the mortal world on one side and Faerie on the other, and how even the shape of their dresses is a mirror image. I also loved a different stock photo that looked like Titania, but it would have been too busy to put her in, too.

Thanks so much, Janet, for hosting me for the cover reveal!

It was my pleasure. Are you ready to show this beauty? Let's do it!

What do you think? Isn't it gorgeous! The colors, the pictures, everything is enchanting! I love it. Jane Dixon-Smith outdid herself on this one. Congratulations to both of you. Now let's take a look at the full jacket.

Stunning! I love the small front cover pic at the top of the spine. It brings the front and back together while allowing the reader to see the front when the book is on the bookshelf. I'm a cover junkie and can't help it, but I don't think I'm alone. How many of you study a cover? Does a cover ever encourage you to buy a book or do you go more by the blurb and what you know of the author's writing? I think all play an important part in the original appeal of a book, and Mr. Darcy's Enchantment certainly is appealing on all accounts.

Since I mentioned the author's writing, here's a short bio telling us more about Abigail Reynolds and when she began writing.

Author Bio:


Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can't follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen's novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy's Journey. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of JASNA, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.

Contact Info:

Thank you again, Abigail, for the privilege of hosting your cover reveal. Yes, I've "gushed"I' but as you know, I was thrilled! I'd been admiring the pictures that were being posted on social media, and was quite fascinated with the premise of your book. It was fun to see the cover and more fun to reveal it today. I know you must be extremely proud to have this lovely wrapper surrounding your latest "baby." I'm glad to have you here at More Agreeably Engaged and share it with everyone. Please come back anytime and best wishes on Mr. Darcy's Enchantment. I believe the book is due to be released on December 4th.

Once again, Dear Readers, if you have not yet read Chapter Two of Mr. Darcy's Enchantment, you can find it here.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Mr. Darcy's Enchantment, Chapter Two...Abigail Reynolds

Apologies to anyone who looked for this chapter on my website first. The site is down after being hacked, so I'm posting this week's chapter here instead, but by next week everything should be back to normal. If you haven't read the first chapter yet, you can find it here.


Chapter 2

The boy Tommy was feverish today, a bad sign, but Elizabeth felt none of the tingling sensation of magic when she laid her hand on his ankle. Unwrapping the bandage revealed red, swollen skin above the wound and two red streaks traveling up his leg. She laid the back of her fingers against one of the red streaks. Burning hot.

“Infected,” she said quietly to Charlotte.

“Can you do anything to help?”

Elizabeth grimaced. “Very little under my current limitations.” If only Mr. Darcy would go away! Then she could use her magic to give the boy a fighting chance.

“It’s bad, isn’t it?” asked Mrs. Miller.

“It isn’t good. How long has he had the fever?” asked Elizabeth.

“It started last night.”

Elizabeth bit her lip. “I had best clean the wound. Is there a basin of water?” She took out clean rags and some herbal simples from her satchel, more for something to do than because she thought they might help.

If she did nothing, the infection might improve on its own, but more likely it would progress. The leg would have to be amputated – most surgeons would be suggesting that already – and even then Tommy might die. If she used her magic, he would have a better chance of recovery, but there would be no guarantee. But if Mr. Darcy caught her using magic, he would put her under a binding spell, and she would lose everything that made her herself. She had seen Mrs. Goulding after she was spell-bound. It had made her slow-witted, nervous, and fretful. It was a choice between her mind and Tommy’s leg, if not his life.

If only she knew more about the abilities of mages! They were half a mile from Rosings. Would Mr. Darcy be able to sense her using magic from that far? Perhaps she was worrying too much. If mages could sense magic half a mile away, they would have caught every woman with magic years ago. But Mr. Darcy had been watching her so closely. Did that make a difference?

Perhaps she could wait until late tonight when Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam would likely be asleep. But how would she explain to the boy’s mother that she wished to treat him in the middle of the night rather than now? The infection could be much worse by then, too.

“This is going to hurt.” She dipped a rag into the water his mother had brought and began to gently cleanse the bite wound.

The boy moaned. “Make it go away!”

“Not much more now, Tommy. You are being very brave.” It hurt to see his suffering.

She had to do it. If she did not take the risk, she would never be able to look at herself in a mirror again. Magic was the only thing she could do to help him, so she would use magic and hope that the distance from Rosings was enough that the mages there would not notice.

Elizabeth placed her fingers on Tommy’s ankles and felt for his life force. There it was, a little weak, but it was enough to work with.

A knock at the cottage door broke her concentration. As the boy’s mother answered it, Elizabeth lifted her hands. Better to wait until they were alone again.

A familiar voice said, “I am Darcy, the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I am here to renew the wards on your cottage.”

Elizabeth jumped backwards, her heart pounding. Thank God she had not truly started yet! Her stomach churned at her narrow escape. She surreptitiously pulled the blanket over Tommy’s wound.

“Oh, come in, Mr. Darcy,” said Mrs. Miller. “We would be very grateful to have the wards renewed.”

Darcy ducked his head to step inside the cottage. “I did not realize you had callers.” He bowed to Elizabeth and Charlotte.

“Young Tommy is very ill,” said Charlotte. “We came to see if there was anything we could do to help.”

“I am sorry to hear it. Is this the boy who was bitten by a redcap?” he asked Elizabeth.

“Yes.” Oh, why had she told him anything about the boy?

Charlotte appeared to reach a decision and stepped closer to whisper something to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth took advantage of his distraction to fade further back into the shadows. She could hardly believe he had almost caught her in the act of using magic.

“I have no particular talent for healing, but I know the basic spells for treating common problems,” Darcy told Charlotte.

“Would you condescend so far as to see if Tommy’s injury is something you might be able to help with?”

Darcy moved to stand at Elizabeth’s side. “Do you think it is a fay spell?” he asked her quietly.

She somehow managed to find her voice. “It started that way, but now the problem is infection.”

“There is a spell for drawing out infection. It rarely solves the problem completely, but it often improves matters. I could try that.”

Why was he looking at her? “Mrs. Miller, Mr. Darcy is a mage. Would you like him to use magic on Tommy’s wound?”

“I’d take help from the devil himself,” said Mrs. Miller, her eyes filling with tears. “It’s that worried I am.”

Elizabeth carefully drew back the blanket to reveal the injury.

Mr. Darcy studied Tommy’s leg, looking at it first from one direction and then another. With a pained expression, he pushed aside the deadly nightshade vine. “What nonsense,” he muttered. He began murmuring in Latin, dipped his forefinger into the water and put two drops side by side above the wound and two just below. Elizabeth felt the tingle of building magic as he passed his hand over the wound.

Nothing seemed to happen as Darcy finished reciting the spell. He said, “Now we must wait for the poisons to flow out of the wound. It may take some time.” But a cloudy fluid was already beginning to fill the bite. “I can check the wards in the meantime.”

He paced along the wall and stopped near a corner. He turned his back on the others to begin the warding spell. Elizabeth could not make out the hand gestures he made, and he was apparently careful not to speak the spell itself loud enough to be overheard. Elizabeth curled her lip. Typical mage behavior, making certain no one else could learn their skills.

She refused to stand there and gawk at him. Instead she tended to Tommy, wiping away the fluid trickling out of the bite. The red streaks running up his leg were already beginning to fade. Nothing she could have done would have worked so quickly or so well. It should have relieved her, but instead anger surged through her. It was not fair. Darcy had the opportunity to study magery and to learn skills and spells instead of having to fumble to discover how to use his magic. Not fair at all.

Elizabeth was still seething when she and Charlotte left the cottage, long after Darcy had finished renewing the wards. “I am glad for Tommy’s sake, but the Millers could never have afforded to pay a mage to heal him. Darcy happened to be feeling charitable, or more likely he wanted to look charitable, and so he deigned to help out. I would help boys like Tommy without charging money, but I am not permitted to learn how to do so, and I can be punished if I even dare to try. It is infuriating!”

“Still, it was kind of him to help when I asked,” said Charlotte reasonably. “He need not have obliged. And it is not his fault that women cannot receive the same training as men.” “No, but he is content to be part of the Collegium that enforces those rules,” Elizabeth muttered. “I cannot forgive him for that.”
Darcy hurried through the gate to the formal gardens of Rosings Park. It was faster that way and would give him a chance to change his clothes before calling on Elizabeth. Would her warm smiles be back now that she had seen him help the sick boy?

He had just reached the Italian Garden when he felt her presence, that subtle relaxing of the pressure of the elements, and his yearning hunger for her began grow. Then he saw her, perched on the edge of the fountain, her gloves beside her and her fingertips trailing in the pool. It made an enchanting picture, one that took his breath away, at least until she spotted him and pulled her hand out of the water.

Darcy halted and bowed, pleasure in every breath now that he was in her presence. “Good day, Miss Elizabeth. I had not realized you were fond of these gardens.”

“In general, I prefer the grove, but today I was in the mood for flowers planted in straight lines. Lady Catherine told me I might walk in the gardens whenever I pleased so long as I was in no one’s way.” She added archly, “I hope I am not in your way.”

It would be unwise to tell her just how much he liked having her in his way. “Not at all. I am on my way back from the village, and this route is more direct than the road.”

“It is kind of you to renew the wards. I would not have imagined you would take that kind of work on yourself.” There was a slight edge to her voice.

Was she implying it was beneath him? Of course, he would usually think so, too. “The villagers need protection during these fay attacks, and I have a certain responsibility for the tenants of Rosings, including the village.”

She tilted her head. “Is that not Lady Catherine’s duty?”

“She does much of the day-to-day estate management because she prefers it that way, and I have seen no reason to interfere, but the estate belongs to Miss de Bourgh, and I am her guardian.” If only he could kiss her rosy lips instead of making nonsensical chatter!

“You are? It must be challenging to be guardian to a woman your own age.”

“My father was originally named as her guardian. I inherited the responsibility after his death.” It was a nuisance he would generally prefer to avoid, but it was that same guardianship that had forced him to come to Rosings each year, and without that he would not have seen Elizabeth again.

“I hope Lady Catherine has not objected to the wards being renewed.”

“I did not discuss the matter with her. It needed to be done, and so I have done it. Unless she wishes to dig each ward out of the walls, she has little choice but to tolerate it.” He did not want to waste his time with Elizabeth talking about his aunt or the wards.

Elizabeth reached behind her to trail her fingers in the fountain pool again. It was at once innocent and sensual, the movement exposing the curves of her body. She could have been a water nymph sitting there, and he was the Greek god desperate to possess her. How could he keep himself from touching her, twining his fingers with hers and then moving on to stroke her shapely arms, his body demanding more and more from her –

With a cry of surprise, Elizabeth yanked her hand out of the water, staring at it in shock.

“What is the matter?” Darcy asked.

“The water! Only my fingertips were in it, but the water crept up my hand and wrist!” Her disturbance was evident. “Did you cast a spell?” she accused.

“Not a spell as such, but it is my fault.” How could he have lost control like that? He wanted to sink into the ground. “My magic is elemental, and water has a particular affinity for me. When I am this close to a body of water, it can misbehave unless I make an effort to keep it quiet. I failed to pay sufficient attention to it, and I apologize for that.”

Elizabeth continued to stare down at her hand. “Water is not alive. How can it have an affinity for you?”

“Lodestones are not alive, either, yet they turn to point to the north. Natural philosophers have argued about water’s affinity for centuries. Some would say that my presence agitates the aetheric vibrations which keep the water in place. Others would say it is a relic of some fay traces in my blood. I have yet to see a convincing explanation of why I can do this.” He pressed his palms together and slowly separated them by a foot or so. The water in the fountain obediently retreated to each side, leaving a dry space in the middle.

Elizabeth eyed him warily. “That is uncanny. And it is not a spell?”

“No, although there are spells which could do similar things. I simply concentrate on the water and what I wish it to do. Left to itself, without my efforts to keep it quiet, it would do this.” He crossed his arms and withdrew from the constant calming refrain in his mind.

The water inched towards him, splashing over the edge of the fountain and running in rivulets towards his boots. It was slower than usual, most likely because Elizabeth’s odd ability to suppress some of his effect on the elements. “That is why I say it has an affinity for me.” He resumed his calming thoughts and the water stopped splashing out of the fountain. “My moods can affect water, too.” He never told people these things, but she ought to know what she would be facing if he offered for her.

Elizabeth touched one of the rivulets. “Not an illusion, then,” she said, as if to herself. “But I have never seen that happen to you before.”

“Usually I am telling the water not to do that.”

“All the time?” She sounded disbelieving.

“All the time. I had a very wet childhood until I learned to control it.”

That seemed to amuse her. “I suppose it is a useful skill to have.”

“No. It is not useful at all.” He had not meant to sound abrupt, but the subject rankled. “Apart from parlor tricks like these and telling people the best place to dig a well, I am forbidden from using it.”

“Forbidden? By whom?”

“The Collegium. It is a dangerous ability and easy to misuse. If there is drought in my lands and I draw water to my wells, someone else’s wells go dry. If I divert floodwaters from my doorstep, another house is flooded as a result. And while water is my primary affinity, I can also set fires with a thought. I am forbidden that, too.

” She nodded slowly. “They are afraid of you.”

“Rightly so. I could wreak havoc if I chose.”

“So they are willing to trust you to follow their rules, but not to use your powers wisely.”

And that was why it rankled. “More or less.”

She turned her hand palm up and looked down at it. “I do not understand one thing. Why did the water go up my arm instead of moving towards you?”

Of course Elizabeth had seen that one flaw in his explanation. How could he extricate himself from this predicament? Perhaps he should simply say he did not know. Or perhaps it was a sign that he should stop fighting the inevitable. “I was thinking about your arm. The water must have followed my thoughts.”

She stood, color rising on her cheeks. “Mr. Darcy, I believe it is time for me to go.”

He held up his hand. “Wait, I beg you. I meant no disrespect.”

“You were respectfully thinking about my arm? I am not a fool, Mr. Darcy. Good day.”

He dodged around her to block her path. He could not allow her to leave him in anger. “I assure you my intentions are honorable.” The words had spilled out before he had known what he was saying.

She turned slowly to face him again, her eyes wide. “What did you say?” she asked dubiously.

He had started, and now he must go on. “I had not meant to speak today, but apparently I must, since my feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. I have wished to make you my wife since shortly after we met, and my feelings have only grown stronger since then. I have fought against them. I cannot deny that I have tried to avoid this connection. Your father’s position in life is acceptable, although lower than mine, but your mother’s birth is otherwise. More importantly, the inappropriate behavior of your mother, younger sisters, and even occasionally your father caused me to hesitate, and had my attraction to you been any less intense, I could not have –”

“Mr. Darcy, I pray you to say no more,” interrupted Elizabeth firmly. “While I am honored by the great compliment of your attentions, any connection between us is impossible. In addition to the obstacles you have mentioned, I resolved long ago never to marry a mage, and nothing will induce me to change my mind. I am sorry for any disappointment it may occasion you. For our peace of mind, let us say nothing more on the subject.”

Darcy stared at her incredulously. “That you would refuse me comes as a surprise, I admit, but that you should do so because I am a mage? Because I was born with powers I did not request and have spent years learning to suppress? You might as well refuse me because I have brown eyes.”

Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “Pardon me. I should have been clearer. It is not because you have magical powers, but because you are a member of the Collegium of Mages. If you belonged to a society of brown-eyed men who were determined to subdue all blue-eyed men by means fair and foul, then yes, I would refuse you for having brown eyes. But it does not matter, since I have other reasons as well.” She tried to move past him.

This time anger made him stand in her way. “Oh? Will you be so kind as to enlighten me as to my other faults?” He bit out the words.

Elizabeth paled. “All of us have flaws, and I do not think a recitation of them would reflect well on either of us. Suffice to say that I must refuse your very flattering offer.”

“I wish to know why.” He spoke through gritted teeth.

She kept her silence for a moment, and then the words began to pour out. “Very well. I do not like your proud and disdainful attitude to anyone beneath your station. It is abhorrent to me, especially your carelessness towards the devastation it causes. Need I explain that you have ruined the happiness of my beloved sister, who still suffers from heartbreak because you thought she was not good enough for your friend? If that is still not sufficient reason for my refusal, Mr. Wickham told me how he lost his ability to earn his living as a mage since you had him expelled from the Collegium because of his low birth.”

Darcy clenched his fists. “George Wickham is a liar. He was expelled from the Collegium for using his magic to cheat at cards. It had nothing to do with his station in life. If you do not believe me, I suggest you ask Colonel Fitzwilliam, who can tell you the entire tale.”

Elizabeth took a step backwards, clearly struggling to contain her own feelings. “I grant you I have no proof as to which of your stories is true, but you yourself showed your disdain for my low connections just minutes ago.”

“Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” He could not stop himself.

“You should be relieved I refused you, then, since you have no idea how low my connections go. I can help a boy who is attacked by redcaps because for years I served as the assistant to a wisewoman, or as you would say, a hedge witch, a crone whose father was nothing more than a tenant farmer. She was going blind and could not do her work without someone who could see fay and their traces, and I was the only one she could find. And I admire her, even though she is far beneath me in birth. Now you see why I cannot marry a mage, a man who would imprison her with a binding spell merely because she is female. You should be grateful for my refusal. You are the last man in the world I could be prevailed upon to marry.”

Each of her words hit him like a dagger. That she should think so ill of him! There was nothing to do for it but to retreat and hope that someday this agonizing emptiness would fade. “You do not know me at all. Pray forgive me for having taken so much of your time.” He turned and strode away, his shoulders stiff.
Elizabeth turned away from Darcy and hurried off, lest he look back over his shoulder and see her standing there like a lost waif. Had that truly just happened? Mr. Darcy making her an offer of marriage – and in such an insulting manner! And she had been just as bad, saying horrible things back to him. Charlotte would be furious with her if she knew.

She pressed her hands against her hot cheeks. Charlotte’s wrath was the least of her worries. She had put herself in danger. If Mr. Darcy had not known of her magic already, he certainly had enough evidence to realize it now. After all, who would resolve never to marry a mage unless they were afraid of mages? And there was only one reason she would be afraid of mages.

Why had she not simply said it was because of Jane? He had not contested that point at all, as he had regarding Wickham and the Collegium. Oh dear, his explanation for that made more sense than Wickham’s, and Darcy would not have told her to ask Colonel Fitzwilliam if it were false. Wickham had seemed so honest and open. Or perhaps she had just been gullible. Now she had made a fool of herself on top of everything else. What did it matter? Darcy had plenty of reasons to think ill of her besides her gullibility.

Tears ran down her face. She could not return to the parsonage like this, so she stopped at the stone bench in the grove and finally allowed herself to sob into her handkerchief, overcome with shame and wretchedness. That Mr. Darcy had cared for her all this time, while despising her and her family! She had always seen her mother and younger sisters as an embarrassment, but to hear him describe how their behavior reflected on her was beyond humiliation. How many other people felt the same way?

A cold shiver ran up her spine. Her humiliation did not matter. She was in danger now. There was no time to dwell on anything else. Once Mr. Darcy realized she had magic, he would put a binding spell on her. She had to get away before that happened, but how? The coaching inn was five miles away, and by the time she arrived there, the last coach of the day would have departed. She would have to delay until tomorrow. But would Mr. Darcy wait that long? He was due to leave Rosings the day after tomorrow, and he would want to resolve this right away.

Tonight she was to dine at Rosings along with the Collinses. She would have to plead a headache to avoid going. But that might make him suspicious that she was trying to escape, and he would act even more quickly. Better for her to go to Rosings, uncomfortable as it might be, and make him think he had plenty of time to deal with her. After all, he could hardly place a spell on her at dinner. No, he would want to wait until morning when he could get her alone.

She was not safe even now. What was she thinking to sit in a place he knew was one of her favorites? Barely able to see through her tears, she hurried away to the hidden deer path leading to the center of the grove. He would not know to look for her in the glade. She was safe, at least for the moment.

She would have to sneak away from the parsonage during the night if she wished to arrive at the posting inn for the first stagecoach. Once she reached the Gardiners in London, they would help her find a place to hide. Too many people could guess that would be her destination, though, so she needed to lay a false trail to delay Mr. Darcy. She could leave a note saying she could no longer live with herself and that she would find peace in the millpond. Charlotte would be distraught until she discovered it was untrue, but it would delay Mr. Darcy until they dredged the millpond. By then she would be in London.

She gazed across the glade. If she could not reach the stagecoach, there was still one last option. She fingered the smooth stone in her reticule. It would be risky, but better than being bound. The tightness in her chest eased a little.

But even if she escaped and avoided being bound, nothing would ever be the same. She could never return to her home because Darcy would know to look for her there. For now, she could not afford to dwell on that future. She had to be strong, and she had always known this could happen someday. There was even a certain comfort in having it over and done with.

She waited until she thought the signs of tears would have faded from her face before starting off for the parsonage. When she came to the gate at the edge of the grounds of Rosings, she peered up and down the lane. No one in sight.

She had not gone far when she encountered Colonel Fitzwilliam walking towards Rosings. After a brief jolt of fear, she realized he could not yet have spoken to Darcy. But he might still be aware of Darcy’s feelings for her, and that made her unaccountably nervous.

“Well met, Miss Bennet,” he said jovially. “I was just at the parsonage hoping to see you.”

“Now you have found me.” She forced a smile to her face. “I am on my way back there.”

“May I have the honor of walking with you?”

“It would be a pleasure.” Or at least a distraction. And perhaps she could take the opportunity to confirm Mr. Darcy’s story about Wickham. It would answer at least one of the million questions swirling in her head. “Colonel, I would like to ask you a question, if that would not be impertinent.”

“You may ask a question, and I will do my best to answer it.”

“Recently a troop of militia was stationed in the town where I live. Among them was a man who claimed acquaintance with Mr. Darcy, a Mr. Wickham. He told me –”

The usually affable Colonel looked thunderous. “Whatever Wickham told you is likely to be a lie. He is not to be trusted.”

She flushed. Now he would know how gullible she had been, too. “He said he had been a member of the Collegium, but that Mr. Darcy had him expelled because of his low birth.”

“Because of his low morals would be more accurate. Darcy should have reported him to the Collegium years before he did, but he kept giving Wickham warnings and hoping he would change. I could have told him that would never happen. Wickham is a gambler. He used illusions to change the appearance of his cards so he could win. He is a blackguard. I urge you to stay well away from him.”

Wickham, who had seemed so sincere in his attentions to her. How utterly humiliating to discover what a fool she had been! “Thank you. I had been wondering if there might be more to a story than he had told me, and you have confirmed it.”

“I commend you for your perception. Wickham has such a charming manner with ladies. I have never yet known one who could see through his masquerade before it was too late.”

She looked away from him and said in a low voice, “You give me credit where none is due. I believed his blandishments until I was given reason to suspect him. I am mortified to discover I was so gullible.”

“You should not be. I have known experienced, sensible women who have fallen for his charm. I sometimes wonder if he uses magic to blind ladies to his failings.”

“That is a frightening thought.” But it made more sense than she cared to admit.

“Frightening indeed. There are very few mages who can cast glamour, but I suspect he may be one of them.”

“I thought only the fay could cast glamour,” she said.

“They are the masters of it, if the old stories are to be believed. Most mages are limited to illusions which can be easily detected by touch.”

Which would be worse, that he had fooled her with false charm or with magic? Time for a change of subject, or she would start crying again. “I hear that illusion has become more popular as decoration at society events in London.”

“True. It is amusing to attempt to pick out which one of the guests has cast the spells. At Lady Atherton’s ball last month, one wall appeared to open onto the desert and the Great Pyramids. It took two mages all day to weave that one.”
“Was it convincing?”

“From a visual standpoint, yes, unless you attempted to walk into it and hit the wall instead. Since I could still smell the hothouse flowers, perfume, and candlewax and hear the orchestra playing, it was difficult to convince me I was in the Egyptian desert. It is tiring work, maintaining a large illusion for so long.”

It was even more tiring to maintain the illusion that she had no magic. How would the colonel react when Darcy told him she might have magic? She would rather not know.


Darcy rested his forehead in his left hand while he dipped his quill in the inkwell. Only a little more now. He had already written an explanation why he had separated Bingley from Jane Bennet and laid bare the entirety of his connection to Wickham, from their childhood to Wickham’s expulsion from the Collegium to his attempt to elope with Georgiana as revenge. If Elizabeth was fool enough to trust Wickham after that, her downfall would not be on Darcy’s conscience.

Only one more section and he would be done. Once he was finished with this letter, the stabbing pain in his chest and the nausea of humiliation would end, and he would be free again. He needed to say all the things he had been too angry and hurt to tell her in person. After that, their entire acquaintance would be over.

He had to hurry. He would be expected downstairs in less than an hour, and that might be his only opportunity to give her the letter.

Lastly I must mention the matter of the Collegium. I am not in agreement with all Collegium policies. Many mages would prefer to see an end to the restriction on women’s use of magic, but change comes slowly. Perhaps you will still condemn me for any association with the Collegium, but if those of us who disagree with the rules depart, those changes will never happen.

How could Elizabeth, his heart’s own Elizabeth, have simply assumed the worst about him? He had never said a word to her about women and magic, though he had long since guessed she had it. Did she think him so detestable that there was not even the possibility he might have his own opinions on the matter? And he had thought she cared about him. Wretched, wretched mistake.

Now she would know better, and she would see what her prejudiced view of all mages had cost her. She could have been Mistress of Pemberley, and instead she would be nothing.

Why could she not simply have accepted him as any other woman in England would be delighted to do? But he did not want any of them. He only wanted Elizabeth.

He still hesitated to sign the letter. Once he did that, it would be done, and he could walk away from Elizabeth Bennet. Still, there was something so final about signing his name. That would be the end of everything.

What was the matter with him? Was he the Master of Pemberley or a puling schoolboy?

I will only add, God bless you.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

He was going to be late. He sanded the letter quickly and called for his valet to help him dress for dinner.

He had written the letter and said everything he needed to say. Why did his chest still hurt, making him feel as if he could never stand up straight again? If anything, the agony was worse. The agony of not only losing the woman he loved but discovering she had never existed in the first place. The one woman he thought would understand all he had suffered and teach him to laugh again. The one woman who would make him feel as if his struggles were worth something.

Elizabeth. Ah, Elizabeth.


“Are you certain you are well enough to go to dinner?” Charlotte asked Elizabeth as they approached Rosings.

“It is only a headache, and I would not dream of disappointing Lady Catherine over such a small matter,” said Elizabeth. There was no point in pretending nothing was bothering her. Charlotte would see through that at once.

Mr. Collins said, “An admirable sentiment, Cousin Elizabeth. Lady Catherine’s wishes must come first.”

“I cannot hope to match the depth of your regard for Lady Catherine, but I do my poor best.” She could say what she liked, since Mr. Collins would not recognize it as a barb. The man never thought of anything except Lady Catherine’s desires.

Elizabeth was determined to avoid drawing any notice to herself. She would stay in the background as much as possible and avoid looking at Mr. Darcy. She might sit with Miss de Bourgh, since Mr. Darcy rarely went near her. Besides, she felt sorry for Miss de Bourgh’s loneliness, especially since she had a good sense of the subjects that provoked that lady’s frequent fainting spells.

Thankfully Mr. Darcy was not present in Lady Catherine’s drawing room when they arrived. Relieved, Elizabeth smiled at Colonel Fitzwilliam and sat next to Charlotte, turning half an ear to Lady Catherine’s usual monologue.

“Where is Darcy?” demanded Lady Catherine. “Does he not know how I particularly detest tardiness?”

Colonel Fitzwilliam said, “He was just finishing a letter and said he would be down shortly.”

“I hope he is writing to Georgiana with my advice that she cannot expect to excel at the pianoforte if she does not practice a great deal. Anne would have been a great proficient had her health permitted her to learn.”

How could Miss de Bourgh be proficient at anything if she could barely manage to complete a sentence before being distracted by something else?

“There you are, Darcy. You are late.”

Painfully self-conscious, Elizabeth kept her eyes on the floor after her curtsy. Her anxiety grew with every breath.

“Pardon me,” said Darcy coldly. “I wished to find a particular reference in a book to show to Miss Bennet, and it took me longer than I expected.”

Elizabeth stiffened. What was he about?

“For Miss Bennet?” Lady Catherine sounded displeased. “Why would you be concerned about finding reading material for her?”

“It is something I wish her to read. We had a minor disagreement over methods of land management. She felt her father’s methods were superior to the ones I proposed. I thought it would benefit her to learn the truth of the matter,” he said with no trace of warmth in his voice.

“You are very kind, sir,” said Elizabeth hastily without looking at him. “I am certain you know far more about the matter than I do, or than my father does, for that matter.”

“Darcy is certainly correct,” said Lady Catherine. “He is showing great condescension by pointing out your errors. Is it a long passage, Darcy?”

“Just a few pages.”

“Then she may sit over by the piano as she reads it. She will be in no one’s way there.”

A pair of shiny boots appeared on the floor by her feet, forcing Elizabeth to finally raise her eyes. Mr. Darcy’s expression was cold and disdainful as he held out a leather-bound volume to her. His fingertips were ink stained.

She took it in numb hands. “I thank you.”

“You may start on page 36.” He turned on his heel and strode over to Colonel Fitzwilliam. He could not have said more clearly that he was done with her.

She swallowed hard. At least this gave her an excuse to sit on the other side of the room. She chose the chair where her face would be hidden by an ornate statuette of a shepherdess. Why did his coldness hurt her so much?

She opened the book to the page he had indicated and found three sheets of letter paper, written quite through, in a close hand. She took a deep breath to calm herself, reminding herself of the abominable things he had said. Did he think he could offer some excuse? This letter was likely to make her even angrier than she already was.


Elizabeth hardly knew how she had made it through the rest of that nightmarish evening. Somehow she had managed to return the book to Mr. Darcy, who merely nodded acknowledgment as he accepted it. Apparently he had already dismissed her from his acquaintance in his own mind.

She could not decide what to make of his letter. His excuses for separating Jane and Bingley seemed weak, but she kept returning to his words about the Collegium. Did he truly disagree with the Collegium view on women and magic? If so, she might not have to leave behind her family and friends to live with strangers. But what if he said it merely to lower her guard? The risk was frightening, but so was the thought of leaving her family and friends. It would be so much simpler if she could accept his assurances. She disliked many things about him, but deceptive behavior had not been one of the faults she had observed. His weak fib about wanting her to read the book had not been the work of a practiced liar.

She passed a restless night haunted by dreams of Mr. Darcy’s disdainful face and cold dislike. In the morning she walked out for the sole purpose of re-reading and brooding upon his letter and the humiliation of his words. She had always prided herself on her judgment of character, and now she knew how wanting in it she was. She was as much a fool as Lydia or Kitty. Mr. Darcy’s criticisms of her family left her spirits lower than they had been in years.

On her return to the parsonage, she discovered her walk had saved her from the mortification of meeting Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam when they called at the parsonage to say their farewells before departing the following morning. Even this fortunate timing could not relieve her oppression of spirits.

The next day, knowing that Mr. Darcy had left Rosings Park, she attempted to put on a brave face with Charlotte. She suspected her friend was not fooled, though Charlotte did not question her. She had always been good about respecting Elizabeth’s privacy.

In the early afternoon, the maid brought a piece of folded notepaper to Charlotte. A look of concern crossed her face as she read it.

“Charlotte, is something amiss?” The last thing Elizabeth needed was more trouble.

“Lady Catherine has taken ill. Mr. Darcy is requesting my presence at Rosings. I suppose her ladyship must want me to read to her.”

Her stomach seemed to turn somersaults. “Mr. Darcy? I thought he had left!”

“Apparently not yet. He asks specifically that I bring you with me.”

Elizabeth’s heart twisted in her chest. “Me? Why would he want me there?” Was it a ploy to do a binding spell after all, or only to berate her, or to show her he no longer cared for her by the cold and disdainful look on his face? You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. And now she would have to see him again, with the shame of everything he had said in his letter fresh in her mind.

Charlotte shrugged. “Perhaps Lady Catherine wishes to listen to you play. I am sorry to impose upon you this way, but we cannot afford to offend her ladyship.”

Her dismay must be showing. “Of course I will go with you.” Somehow she would manage to keep her composure with Mr. Darcy. Somehow.


So...any guesses why Darcy wants Elizabeth to come to Rosings? I'll give you a hint - it's not so he can see her fine eyes! This chapter set all the pieces in place, and things will start to get very interesting in next week's excerpt. The cover reveal will be on Wednesday at More Agreeably Engaged, and I can't wait to show the beautiful cover off to you!  Many thanks again to Janet for agreeing at the last minute to post this so that I wouldn’t have to let anyone down!


On behalf of all your readers who were eagerly awaiting this chapter, I was happy to help out. We hope to see you all back Wednesday to share in the reveal of Abigail's beautiful cover for Mr. Darcy's Enchantment! You won't be disappointed!