Mr. Darcy’s Bet: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary by @reginajeffers is a Fall Into These Great Reads Pic
Title: Mr. Darcy’s Bet: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Classic Historical Fiction; Historical Regency Fiction; Classic Romance Fiction
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” - Act 1, Sc. 4, William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
FITZWILLIAM DARCY has done everything within his power to prove to ELIZABETH BENNET his devotion. He believes they are so close to knowing happiness when his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, accosts Elizabeth with predictions of Elizabeth never being able to fit in with his social connections. Although the lady sent his aunt packing with words to the contrary, a bit of doubt has slipped under Elizabeth’s shield of confidence, and she again refuses his hand in marriage, this time to protect him from gossiping beau monde.
Therefore, Darcy has taken a leap of faith, he has proposed to her before the congregation gathered for the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister and his friend Bingley. A public proposal from which he cannot legally or morally withdraw, one only Elizabeth Bennet can refuse. He bets he can win not only her heart this time, but also her consent. With the assistance of her family and his, a plan is put into motion to prove Elizabeth Bennet not only worthy of his attentions, but also the only one he would consider marrying.
He glanced up from his musings to view the woman whose image haunted his dreams coming toward him, and his heart sang its song of love and devotion. “Is it time?” he asked when she took her place beside him, for they were to stand up with Bingley and Miss Bennet during the ceremony.
“Mama agrees, so here I am,” she said with a grin. “In truth, I assume she means to present Jane the talk regarding what to expect on the wedding night. Mrs. Bennet does not know Mrs. Gardiner has already spoken to each of us.”
Darcy grinned. Whether the lady realized it or not, Elizabeth Bennet considered him one of her closest confidants, for she spoke to him on a level not afforded “indifferent” acquaintances. “May I say you look lovely?” he whispered.
Her brows drew together in disapproval. “Your tone says you would place an addendum to the compliment.”
He hesitated before answering. “If such were possible, I believe you would be more lovely if you were wearing jewels in your hair, rather than the flowers.”
Everyone’s attention turned to the back of the church—everyone’s but his. From the corner of his eye, Darcy noted Mrs. Bennet scampering up the aisle to assume a place on the front pew. Miss Bennet paused at the head of the aisle, the lady’s attention on Bingley as Jane Bennet approached them.
“Is she not beautiful?” Elizabeth murmured.
Darcy’s eyes, however, remained on Elizabeth. “Not as exquisite as you,” he said in hushed tones.
She glanced up at him, displeasure crossing her expression.
Yet, before she could react, Darcy took the ultimate leap of faith. “When we marry, would you prefer a large wedding or a more private affair?”
“Neither,” she hissed. Embarrassment, or perhaps it was anger, colored her cheeks.
“You would prefer one comparable to the future Mrs. Bingley?” he asked in what he hoped sounded of innocence. Convincing Elizabeth to agree with him would take all his skills at negotiation.
“We are not marrying, large, small, or—” Her voice increased in volume with each denial. “Or—”
“Or would you prefer to leave for Gretna Green? Is a marriage over the anvil more to your liking?”
“Enough, Mr. Darcy!” she exclaimed in a voice and tone rarely used in a church.
“Elizabeth Bennet!” her mother warned from her position on the pew. “This is not your day.”
Elizabeth nodded her apologies, but Darcy ignored everyone but the woman he loved. “Autumn has already made itself known. If you hold no objections, I would prefer we pronounced our vows before Christmastide. You have not lived until you celebrate Christmas at Pemberley.”
She spun around to face him. Pointing her finger at him, as if he was a misbehaving child, she enunciated each of her words slowly. “I once told you I would not marry you even if you were the last man in the world.”
“But we both know you did not mean those words. You have had a change of heart. No absolutes!”
“I am not marrying you, sir,” she growled.
Darcy thought her adorable when she was so angry she had lost her ability to reason. “Never? Let us ask your mother,” he said with a smile.
“You would not dare.” Elizabeth no longer spoke in soft tones.
“Before I do, answer me this: Are you set against me? Completely set against me?”
“Not if we were the last two people on earth,” she said with a stomp of her foot to emphasize her irritation.
“We would require at least one more person,” he continued logically. “To witness the joining.” He thought it exhilarating to watch the passion flowing through his Elizabeth when she was angry. Just imagine how it will be when we are alone together, he cautioned his heart. “Simply explain what obstacles remain to prevent us from marrying.”
She shot a glance to the congregation, who was watching their interactions with great interest. Darcy refused to look, knowing his daring would die if he encountered a scowl upon her father’s face or those of her neighbors. “You know my reasons without my pronouncing them aloud.”
Off to the side, he heard Miss Bingley announce, “I knew the chit did not have the brains of a sluggard.”
“Mr. Bennet,” Darcy called out; yet, his eyes remained on Elizabeth. “Do I have your permission to marry Miss Elizabeth?”
Her father’s voice held his amusement. “As I said, son, you must convince Lizzy on your own.”
“Understood, sir. But you hold no objections?”
“Not if Elizabeth is happy.”
Mrs. Bennet shot to her feet, finally comprehending what was happening. “Elizabeth Bennet, you present Mr. Darcy your assent this very moment.”
Bingley stepped up beside him. “In case neither of you have noticed, this is my and Miss Bennet’s wedding day, not a battlefield.”
“All this is Mr. Darcy’s fault,” Elizabeth accused, refusing to abandon her anger.
Bingley growled, “I do not care for faults. All I care about is my Jane and our pronouncing our vows. I swear one more interruption, and I will personally escort you both outside.”
“I apologize, Bingley,” Darcy said in contrition.
“I will be silent,” Elizabeth said obediently.
Bingley leaned closer to speak to Elizabeth without an audience. “You do realize how stubborn Darcy can be when he sets his mind to a task. It might be best if you offered your consent now. It would please both Jane and me to see the two of you happy.”
Darcy noted how Elizabeth stiffened in denial. “I am determined I will not marry him. Some find my stubbornness endearing.”
“My money is on Mr. Darcy,” Colonel Forster called out.
“Then you will lose, Colonel,” Elizabeth said stubbornly. “I remain adamant.”
Sir William announced, “Those who wish to place a bet, see me outside after the ceremony. For now, Mr. Bingley wishes to claim his bride.”
Before the focus switched away from him and Elizabeth, Darcy called to the man, “Put me down for fifty pounds. I mean to prove I possess more resolve than does Miss Elizabeth.”
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What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
This story is what those of us who dabble in JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) call a “vagary” or “variation.” Austen vagaries change one incident/event in the original story, and then the author must create a new version of the Austen tale, leading to the same Happily Ever After as the original. I began my career writing Austen vagaries and sequels. My first novel, Darcy’s Passions, published by Ulysses Press, back in February 2009, was a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. By word of mouth, the book went to #8 on Amazon. Since then, I have continued to write my fair share of JAFF, while also earning recognition for both my Regency romances and my Regency romantic suspense.
In my vagaries, I, customarily, either have Elizabeth and Darcy meet in a different manner, having to learn to trust each other under different circumstances, or I write a mystery that plagues their lives after they are married. I have executed more than a bit of havoc in “our dear couple’s” (ODC) life, from burying Darcy alive to having Colonel Fitzwilliam accused of murder, or I start my story in the middle of Austen’s tale. Mr. Darcy’s Bet is such a vagary. Everything that happened up to Lady Catherine De Bourgh verbally assaulting Elizabeth Bennet remains the same. In my story, although Elizabeth withstood Lady Catherine’s insults, the grand dame’s accusations have found a target. Even though Elizabeth Bennet loves Fitzwilliam Darcy, she means not to marry him for she refuses to bring shame to his family, as her connections are distinctly below his.
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