Welcome back fellow readers! Today we have a guest post from JAFF author Christine Combe. A love for Austen continues to connect people as Christine and I realized we live in the same state! I am excited for her to share with you all about her upcoming release. So without any further ado…
Greetings, fellow Austenians! I’m so excited to be visiting Probably At The Library today to talk to you about my upcoming release Choice and Consequence, the second book in my What Might Have Been series.
The timeline of this book starts at near the same point as the original. But instead of meeting at the Meryton assembly, Elizabeth and Darcy first meet accidentally at Oakham Mount one morning and have a brief but pleasant conversation. And although each was intrigued by the other, they don’t meet again until the assembly—where Elizabeth overhears Darcy make that unkind remark about her. He means it only as a joke to stop Bingley teasing him about his interest in the second Bennet daughter, and is able to apologize the next day after rescuing Elizabeth during a thunderstorm. After a heart-to-heart about all the reasons they shouldn’t become attached, they choose to be friends…but neither discounts the possibility of something more.
Circumstances regarding his sister and Wickham force Darcy and Elizabeth to put their courtship on hold. The startling behavior of his cousin Anne in London leads to a confrontation with their uncle, the Earl of Disley…
**In my series, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s parents are the Earl and Countess of Disley, not of Matlock as is commonly used in JAFF. Also, the colonel’s first name is not Richard—I’ve given that one to his father. The colonel himself I named Theodore, his elder brother Philip, and their mother is Frances.
Minutes later, he and Fitzwilliam were off to the neighborhood of Mayfair, where many of the nobility had their London homes. He recollected that the Duke of Devonshire was one such man, his great townhome only a block away from that of Theodore’s parents. The carriage was rife with angry tension, most of it emanating from the glowering Anne, who sat across from Darcy and Fitzwilliam with her arms crossed, her withering stare alternating from glancing out the glass of the carriage door to her cousins and back again.
Upon drawing up to the Fitzwilliam townhome, which was near as large as a small country estate, Darcy alighted first. He turned back to see Theodore reaching for Anne, who snatched her arm away and snapped at him that she could very well descend the carriage under her own power. As he watched the colonel nod and abandon her to her own devices, Darcy could not help but wonder whatever happened to the meek, demure Anne he had known throughout his childhood, who had been coddled and fussed over by his Aunt Catherine for being of a “sickly constitution”. The one that now marched defiantly up the front steps of her uncle’s house was a far cry from that pale-skinned girl who spoke hardly a word and hid behind her governess’s skirts whenever the boys came near her.
In the entry hall of Disley House, they were greeted almost immediately by a surprised Lady Disley.
“I did not think to see you boys again so soon, and I am quite surprised indeed to see you, Anne,” she said, her eyes moving rapidly between the three.
“Where is Father this morning, Mother?” asked Theodore. “We are here on a rather urgent matter.”
Lady Disley scoffed. “Where else is your father when he is not entertaining guests? He and Philip are in the study.”
“Very well. Will you join us?”
He left her no chance to decline, and once again took Anne by the arm to lead her further into the house. She tried to jerk her arm away but he held firm until they were inside Lord Disley’s sanctum; only then did he release her. Anne flounced over to the damask sofa against the wall and sat down with an indignant huff.
To Darcy it looked as though his uncle and eldest cousin were going over account books; on their entrance, the earl flipped the book closed and sat back in his chair.
“I am not at all going to like what I am about to hear, am I?” he asked, his eyes falling on Anne.
Theodore closed the study door, then approached his father’s desk. After offering a terse greeting to him and to his brother, he launched into an explanation as to the purpose of their appearance at Disley House, with Darcy filling in a spot here and there. Richard Fitzwilliam’s expression quickly shifted from curious to furious as he regarded his wayward niece.
“Well, Anne, what have you to say for yourself?” he asked when their tale had ended.
She crossed her arms and looked away from him. Lady Disley surprised Darcy by walking over to Anne and giving her shoulder a sharp slap. “Your uncle asked you a question, you insolent, foolish girl! Be polite enough to answer him!”
“It’s all William’s fault!” Anne shouted. “If he would just marry me like he’s supposed to—”
Darcy scoffed. “I’ve already told you my feelings on that score. It was never going to happen no matter how much you or Aunt Catherine wished it so, and even were I inclined in your favor, I certainly would not be after last night’s debacle!”
“Thank you, William,” said Lord Disley.
“And I suppose you’re of a mind to marry that little country whore of yours, is that it?” snapped Anne with a sneer.
Darcy stepped toward her, his voice furious as he said, “How dare you?! You know nothing about her!”
“I know that she is as penniless as any strumpet in a brothel, and horridly ugly to boot!” Anne cried.
He took another step in her direction before a hand took firm hold of his arm. “Don’t, Will. Come, sit and calm yourself,” said Theodore.
“She will apologize for insulting Elizabeth, or so help me…”
“Indeed she will,” declared his uncle. “Anne, apologize to William at once.”
Anne huffed and crossed her arms again. “I will not.”
Lord Disley stood and moved from behind his desk. “You know, I was of a mind to let your foolish actions remain known only to those here and those who witnessed it. After all, everyone who actually saw you behave like the wanton hussy you surmise your rival for William’s affections to be are either related to you or in a position to recognize that silence is a better option than gossip. However, now I think that I shall do as society’s rules dictate and order you to marry the man you compromised.”
Anne stood, indignant rage written across her countenance. “You can’t do that! My mother will never agree to it!”
“I can, I will, and your mother has no say in the matter,” Disley replied. “Contrary to my sister’s over-inflated opinion of herself, I am the head of this family. My only regret is that in punishing you, I must punish the poor man also.”
“Oh, Anne, you stupid girl!” cried Lady Disley. “Have you no idea the ruin you could have brought upon this family had you been caught by one of Darcy’s servants?”
“And what of the ruin of the gentleman and his family?” pointed out Philip. “Would you really sully their reputation as well with your shameful behavior?”
“Oh, she doesn’t care about him,” Darcy said snidely. “She’s already made that quite clear.”
“My love,” said Lord Disley to his wife, “pray, take our niece to one of the guest rooms and see that she is made comfortable. Dear Anne can hardly stay at Darcy House under the same roof as her betrothed.”
“Nor is she welcome there, or at Pemberley, until she can bring herself to issue a genuine apology for her insults towards Miss Bennet,” Darcy added.
Anne looked stricken. “Oh, William, you don’t really mean that! You’d not turn aside your own family, would you?”
“I meant every word,” he told her, then turned away.
Oh boy—Anne de Bourgh has made a mess of things for herself, hasn’t she? Thanks once again to Melissa for having me today. Choice and Consequence is available for pre-order on Amazon and will release May 5th!
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