Book Blurb: Jane Bennet had a heart to break after all, and I am a party to it. —Fitzwilliam Darcy
One simple, uncharacteristic subterfuge leaves Fitzwilliam Darcy needing to apologize to nearly everyone he knows! When Charles Bingley reaps the sad repercussions of Mr. Darcy’s sin of omission, Elizabeth Bennet’s clear-eyed view of the facts gives her the upper hand in a long-distance battle of wills with Mr. Bingley’s former friend. By the time Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth meet (repeatedly) in the groves of Rosings Park, neither knows the whole truth except that somehow, someway, their future is inextricably linked to the courtship of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet.
In this Pride and Prejudice “what-if”, the additional dash of backbone and “far-sighted” action to the character of Mr. Bingley begs the question: how is Mr. Darcy to impress Elizabeth Bennet if Bingley does his own matchmaking? And how is Elizabeth Bennet to trust Mr. Darcy when even faith in a most beloved sister falters?
Thanks Tina, and all of your readers at Half Agony, Half Hope, for inviting me into your blog for the My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley Blog Tour! It is an honor as always. This story is rather different in that not only does Charles Bingley have something like a spine, but Jane Bennet actually slips into something like shrewishness when she realizes her power over Bingley. Surprisingly, it is Mr. Bennet who finds her behavior most offensive, realizing how dangerous a path she treads in treating Mr. Bingley flippantly. Mr. B recruits an unlikely ally to show Jane the error of her ways: Circe the barn cat! Since every scene could have more than one point of view, let’s see how Circe feels about being pressed into service!
Circe’s side of the story…
I am seated next to a handsome tuxedo cat on a bench in the sun outside the largest barn at Longbourn. Her fur is glossy and dense, and she really is a perfect creature, like all cats are, except for the rather large notch out of one ear.
Linda B (reaching to touch the notch): Good afternoon, Circe!
Circe (flattening ears and turning head away, with an exasperated huff): Did you come ‘ere to talk about me, or that nasty piece of rat droppin’s, Theodora?
LB (judiciously pulls hand back; I take it Theodora, another of the four barn cats, caused the injury): Oh no! Pardon me! Why would I wish to speak to anyone but you? But I did want to discuss your relationship to Mr. Bennet. You don’t mind, do you?
Circe (looks back at me with more interest): Ah, well… He’s a dear old thin’, that human. ‘E knows how to treat a girl, he does! Brings us all milk, of a mornin’. And so respectful! (She is still looking at me suspiciously.)
LB (keeping hands folded in lap): He has told me you are his favorite.
Circe (looks at me with new interest): Of course! Why wouldn’t I be, the dear old lamb…
LB: He thinks you are sublimely handsome. He told me. But I must admit he says you are an inefficient hunter.
Circe (she meets my eye and curls her lips distastefully): Ow! That cow Theodora’s been talkin’ out of turn again! I like to take my time about it, is all. (She sits up and licks a paw.) We all ‘ave our own style, don’t we? I likes to take me time.
LB: But you lose your prey sometimes, don’t you?
Circe (licks other paw nonchalantly): It’s that Theodora—fat little bit of stuff. She eats too much. She ought to stick to her own catch, without eyein’ my business all the time.
LB (learning the ropes): Well you are more sleek. And glossy. And I notice you have…(I pause, framing my next question carefully)…a London accent?
Circe (purring more—she’s her own favorite topic—and giving me her full attention): Indeed. You are a clever boots! I fetched up young at the Gardiner ‘ouse. Don’t remember much ‘afore that. Too many tiny human kittens there, with their sticky ‘ands and grabby ways. The oldest Bennet kit, they calls ‘er Jane? She brung me ‘ere after she stayed there a while back.
LB: I understand you have helped Mr. Bennet?
Circe (purrs slightly then tries to hide it) Oh yes, well…we all love ‘im. ‘E is so good with kittens, you know. ‘E was very kind to keep ‘is own kittens from cutting up rough with us when we was young. Now they know to come to this bench, like you done, and sit nice and wait for us to approve and approach when we choose.
LB (returning to my point): So when he needed your help…
Circe (turns her head askance): I might not ‘ave, if I’d knowed ‘e would put me in a cage. Thought it bloody rude at first, I did! But such a fine rat ‘e put there, not too big as to take much effort; not so small I couldn’t be bothered.
LB: But it got away?
Circe (huffs again): I was in a cage, wasn’t I? Couldn’t go after it at all, could I? And that curs-ed Theodora!
LB (mollifying): Yes, Theodora is what one might call an opportunist. You are more honorable.
Circe (leans in): Isn’t she just. Nice word, that; opportunist. (She tries it on with a long hiss at the end.) I’ll ‘it ‘er with that, the next time I see ‘er. (She pulls back with a shrug.) It ended well enough. Mr. B came out later and gave me bits of cooked chicken. Lovely, it was. Sweet, ‘e is. A right soft old tom...
I relax my hands, and Circe bends to rub my fingers with her cheeks. Whatever her morals—I was stretching it to call her honorable, but vain creature that she is, she liked hearing it—she served Mr. Bennet very well is showing what playing cat and mouse with someone gets you! I pull out the cup of milk Mr. Bennet gave me, and hold it for her. I’d held it back in case the interview wasn’t going well! She lapped every drop (only a few teaspoons), and looked at me approvingly.
Circe: You’ll do! You may scratch between my shoulders. (I do so.) Oooh lovely! (She collapses across my legs.) Don’t stop ‘til I tell you…
Thanks again Tina, for allowing us to give Circe’s side of Chapter 10, Mr. Bennet’s Exhibit. And thanks to all of your readers for their unstinting support of Jane Austen Fan Fiction!
Author Bio: Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s luck—Linda certainly does. The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the [too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.
Now, after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a bouquet of books on gardening—we have My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.
The eBook and paperback is available on Amazon
Blog Tour Schedule
5 April My Jane Austen Book Club; Vignette, Giveaway
6 April So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
7 April Half Agony, Half Hope; Vignette
8 April Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, Giveaway
9 April My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway
10 April Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
11 April Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, Giveaway
13 April Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway
14 April A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
15 April Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway
17 April From Pemberley to Milton; Review, Giveaway
18 April Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
19 April Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
20 April Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway