Can you believe that it is the 22nd of July already? July has almost finished! However, that is never an impediment to have new books to read. JAFF is a dynamic world, and fortunately for us, readers and bloggers, we can enjoy great stories. Today, Jayne Bamber is presenting her latest novel: Madness in Meryton.
Here your have the description:
Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, and two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their quarrelsome younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and their tedious cousin, Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.
That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card party for the officers of the local militia, where the charming Mr. Wickham reveals to Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.
The next day, the same thing happens again.
And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in an effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.
As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….
Elizabeth Bennet must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.
What do you think? I am looking forward to reading it and seeing how Elizabeth manages her “eternal” day.
Welcome, Jayne! Thank you for being with us today 🙂
Hello, Janeites! It is a treat to be here and share a little about my upcoming release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austen variation, and has proved to be the wildest ride yet; it is a Groundhog Day vagary – with a twist.
The day being repeated is the day that Elizabeth meets George Wickham and hears his tale of woe, and I have reimagined it as Meryton’s monthly Market Day to heighten the chaos of Darcy and Elizabeth’s shared predicament.
The excerpt I am sharing today is from one of my favorite chapters one where chaos reigns at Longbourn in the aftermath of Mr. Bingley’s proposal to Jane Bennet – or one of them, at least….
Jane and Mr. Bingley had begun to stroll together at some remove. Elizabeth walked alone in the garden, keeping near the house, her gloved hands folded behind her back as she slowly moved along the rose bushes. For a few minutes she was content to watch Jane and Mr. Bingley walking arm in arm, their heads bent together in conversation.
Inevitably, her mind soon drifted back to Mr. Darcy, who had made this moment of bliss possible, and even imbued it with some private humor. She had not dared to hope that the colonel’s plan would work so beautifully, that the proud Mr. Darcy would ever make such an effort to amend his error.
She began to wish he had accompanied his friend, and as she indulged her imagination, supposing what they might say to one another, she heard footfalls on the gravel path behind her. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling a pleasant warmth creep into her chest. “I hoped you would come,” she said softly.
But as Elizabeth turned around, her dreamy smile fell into dismay; it was Mr. Collins. He gave her an awkward, amorous look. “Cousin Elizabeth!”
Elizabeth instinctively recoiled, but her cousin approached her with his hands outstretched. “I am come – I must speak!” He moved closer, oblivious to her apprehension, and stopped to pluck a flower from one of the bushes. He held it out to her with one hand, his other coming to rest on his heart. She froze, gaping at him, and Mr. Collins lifted her hand and placed the flower there, closing his fingers over hers. She jerked her hand away at once, and he finally showed a modicum of hesitation.
“Sir,” Elizabeth hissed. “I believe you mistake me – I did not know it was you there.”
He smiled repellently. “Come now, fair cousin, there is no need to be coy; I believe we understand one another. The tears of joy you shed for your sister have made me understand that you must wish to be next, and I see no reason to delay what will complete your happiness, dear Elizabeth.”
Mr. Collins lurched toward her, but Elizabeth quickly backed away. “Mr. Collins! Sir, I beg you would return to the house at once. I wish only to chaperone my sister.”
Again he took Elizabeth’s hand. “Believe me, Cousin – your modesty adds to your other perfections. But of course you wish to follow her to the altar ere long. I am ready to declare myself, for almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of my future life!”
“Mr. Collins, that was but three days ago,” Elizabeth replied, again backing away from him.
“Indeed it was! But before I am run away with my feelings, perhaps it would be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying.”
Mr. Collins clearly was overcome by feelings, though Elizabeth had never imagined such a ludicrous thing possible. She struggled to keep from laughing, and Mr. Collins continued his absurd address, detailing at length how Lady Catherine had compelled him to seek out a bride. “You will find her manners beyond anything I can describe,” he said with a fatuous grin.
This time she could not restrain her laughter. “I am sure of that,” she said.
Mr. Collins stammered, and gaped at her. “Your wit and vivacity must be acceptable to her, when tempered by the silence and respect her rank will inevitably excite.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I am sure you are mistaken, sir, I cannot imagine Lady Catherine receiving me with any measure of acceptance, nor should I ever wish it.”
“Cousin Elizabeth! Think of what you are saying. You are a gentleman’s daughter, and therefore a perfectly acceptable match for a man of my situation – particularly as I am to inherit this estate after the death of your honored father. But do not think I seek only to extend my charity in choosing amongst his daughters – I must now assure you, in the most animated language, of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent….”
Despite her attempts to stop him, Elizabeth began to fear her cousin would never cease. “Mr. Collins, please – you are too hasty, sir. I must thank you for the compliment of your proposal – but I must decline it.”
Mr. Collins simpered and smirked at her. “I know it is the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application; I am by no means discouraged.”
“Really, Mr. Collins. I am perfectly sincere in my refusal,” Elizabeth insisted. She looked about the garden, but Jane and Mr. Bingley had snuck off together. She was happy for them, but what horrid timing!
Mr. Collins also perceived that they were alone, and he reached for her. “Cousin Elizabeth, you seek to increase my love by suspense, in the usual style of elegant females. You are uniformly charming!” He leaned in as if to kiss her, and Elizabeth was obliged to shove him away.
“Mr. Collins, I beg you would leave me alone this instant, or I will shout for Jane and Mr. Bingley.”
“Cousin Elizabeth, I beg you would end my agony, and accept my suit,” he said with gallantry, reaching for her again.
Elizabeth’s patience was at an end. She recalled the occasion when she had driven him to accuse her of blasphemy by merely telling him the truth about her dilemma, and she was on the verge of doing just that when he seized her hand in his and began to pull at her. “Cousin Elizabeth, I beg you!”
“Sir, it is quite literally impossible for me to marry you!” His grip on her arm began to hurt, and Elizabeth struggled to wrest free. “Unhand me or I will scream!”
Darcy spotted Bingley walking with Jane Bennet in a pretty little wilderness beyond the garden, and moved that way to congratulate them, when he heard a scream. He took off running, and reached the garden just as Elizabeth ripped her arm out of Mr. Collins’ grasp and turned to flee. She stopped just short of colliding with Darcy, who instantly closed the gap between them and took her in his arms. “Elizabeth, Good God! Has he harmed you?”
“Mr. Darcy!” Elizabeth leaned into him, her breathing ragged. After a moment she drew away from his embrace, but stood very near. “A little,” she stammered. “That is, he has importuned me….”
“I think I see,” he said gravely, staring down the toady parson, who cowered back, a wild look in his eyes. Darcy looked back at Elizabeth. “Do you require any assistance?”
She shook her head and laughed ruefully. “No indeed, I had everything perfectly under control – could you not tell?”
He laughed softly, and took her hand in his. “You have kept your gloves on.” She blushed, and he ran his thumb deliberately across her fingers.
Mr. Collins whimpered in indignation. “Mr. Darcy? Of Pemberley?”
Darcy drew himself up into an imposing posture. “Indeed I am, sir, and if you do not cease your unseemly addresses to Elizabeth at once, Lady Catherine will hear of it.”
Mr. Collins gasped, and shrank back a little. “Lady Catherine,” he sputtered. He looked down at Darcy and Elizabeth’s hands entwined, and stomped his foot with a cry of horror. “No! I think I understand – but it is impossible! Oh dear – it must be true. I can think of no other reason my cousin should refuse me, but now I see, I see it all! She thinks to have you, Mr. Darcy – she has practiced her arts and allurements to draw you in! Think of your cousin, Miss de Bourgh!”
Elizabeth slipped her hand free and glared at her cousin. “Mr. Collins! I beg you would return to the house, and allow Mr. Darcy and I to speak privately.”
“I cannot allow that, Cousin Elizabeth – I cannot let you throw yourself at such a man as this! Can you not see the folly of putting yourself forward with a man so superior in every circumstance – and actually engaged to another?”
“That is a scandalous falsehood,” Darcy thundered, taking another ominous step toward the dreadful parson. “Furthermore, it can be no concern of yours. If you know what is good for you, you will leave us at once, and you will henceforth cease to speak of what does not concern you.”
Mr. Collins blanched and backed away from Darcy, but turned back to wag his finger at Elizabeth before he scurried away. “Your mother shall hear of this, Cousin.”
As Mr. Collins retreated to the house, Elizabeth began to laugh hysterically, and again she leaned into Darcy. He knew he ought not be surprised that she could find the humor in such a shocking scene, and after a moment his own vexation gave way to a shared sense of mirth.
She looked up at him, her eyes sparkling, and she arched an eyebrow at him. “Perhaps I ought not have kept my gloves on.”
Darcy laughed, and captured her hand once again. He gently tugged at one of her gloves, until it fell away. “Is that better? Perhaps you might catch him up, before he scampers off to tattle.”
Elizabeth smirked, letting her hand rest in his. “I really ought to, before I end up in Mamma’s black books for the remainder of the day – then again, she is so happy I doubt even I could vex her today.” She clasped his hand a little tighter. “I have you to thank for that.”
Darcy gazed down at her; he wished to say something eloquent, though his rapidly dwindling sense forestalled his from speaking. In the end, he only lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it.
She blushed and looked away, gently withdrawing her hand. “I am sorry for my behavior yesterday.”
“It was natural and just,” Darcy replied. “I realize I judged your sister unfairly; it is I who should apologize.”
“I had already forgiven you,” she said, looking back up at him. She chewed her lip for a moment, and Darcy hoped she might say more, but she only flinched as her mother called her name from somewhere in the distance. “I better go inside,” she muttered. She hesitated, then stood up on her toes and kissed him softly on the cheek.
At that moment, there was another sound from the house – Mr. Bennet cleared his throat. Darcy and Elizabeth looked over at the window – it was open, and Mr. Bennet was standing behind it with his arms crossed. He did not look happy.
Thanks for joining me for this stop on my blog tour – I will be continuing this scene in another excerpt at Laughing with Lizzie.
OMG! I need to read what has happened for them to have such a lovely relationship! How they have managed Mr Collins 😀
Don’t forget that Madness in Meryton will be available on Kindle Unlimited July 24th! Amazon US
Jayne Bamber is giving away one e-book copy for one winner. Click the link below and follow instructions. Good luck!