Please, Mr. Darcy! Upcoming Novel from Susan Mason-Milks
I am thrilled to have fellow Austen Author Susan Mason-Milks joining me for Coffee this morning (although she prefers a spot of tea). Susan holds a certain personal distinction for me. After I became addicted to Pride and Prejudice variations (you read my "confession" here later) my husband had enough of the stacks upon stack of books I continued to accumulate at a rapid rate and finally said, "No more!", Susan's "what if" novel Mr. Darcy's Proposal is the first P&P variation I downloaded on my Kindle! If you haven't gotten it yet, what are you waiting for?
Now she is here to tell us about her upcoming novel Please, Mr. Darcy - and I am already trying to sweet-talk her into giving me an ARC of it! (For those not in the industry, ARC means....uh, well...a book before it has even come out.) She has an excerpt to tease us with her work in progress. I know, all of you who keep asking me about Dearest Bloodiest Elizabeth, I have no right to complain; but please, Susan, write faster!
Thank you, Colette, for inviting me for coffee. In spite of the fact that I live in Seattle, the land of a Starbucks on every corner, I actually prefer tea, if you don’t mind. I suppose my love of tea comes from my very British grandmother. When I think of her, I think of tea with lots of sugar and milk and Lorna Doone cookies.
Today I’d like to talk about my second novel, Please, Mr. Darcy, which has unfortunately taken much longer than expected to complete. Personal and family issues prevented me from working on it for a good part of last year and this, but I am finally making significant progress. This story is full of humorous misunderstandings many of which are related to Caroline Bingley’s attempts to sabotage any relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy so that she can secure him for herself. It’s been lots of fun to write because we all love to hate Caroline. Georgiana also plays a
significant role as she tries to play matchmaker and bring her
brother and Elizabeth together.
In Please, Mr. Darcy, which begins after Darcy’s disastrous first proposal, he has encouraged a friendship between his sister Georgiana and Elizabeth Bennet. Since Elizabeth is still very uncomfortable around him, Darcy has arranged to be absent from the house whenever Elizabeth comes to call. Georgiana, being a romantic, thinks if she could just get her brother and Elizabeth in the same room for a few minutes they would resolve their differences and fall madly in love. Since they are not cooperating, she has decided to take matters into her own hands and help them along a little.
On her next visit to Darcy House, Elizabeth sensed something was different. Unable to account for it, she shook off the strange feeling as she handed her bonnet and gloves to a footman. Instead of being shown to the sitting room where she and Georgiana usually met, she was escorted to the library. Before she had time to do much more than glance around the room, her friend appeared with a warm smile on her face.Walking toward Elizabeth with palms extended, Georgiana took both her hands as she greeted her warmly. “I am so pleased to see you, Elizabeth! I apologize for not being ready to receive you. Something unexpected has come up which will take me a few more minutes to resolve. I had you shown to the library because I thought you might enjoy looking around while you wait. There are not as
many books here as in the Pemberley library, but you should be able to find something to entertain yourself for a few minutes. I will be back as quickly as I can.”“Finish whatever you are doing. You need not rush. I will enjoy looking around.”“You are certain you do not mind?”“Not at all. Go ahead and do not worry about me.”Georgiana smiled and hurried away, closing the door behind her. Elizabeth had been in the library at Darcy House only briefly on the day she had called on Georgiana for the first time. It was a large room with tall southern facing windows to let in the most light. The bookshelves, running floor to ceiling on two sides, were neatly lined with beautiful leather bound books. There was a door in the middle of one wall of shelves that Elizabeth thought might connect to the drawing room at the back of the house. In spite of having visited quite a few times, she still did not have a sense of the layout of the large house.To Elizabeth, this room was heaven. As she inhaled the lovely scent of leather, paper, and ink, she thought about how much her father would enjoy this room. Wandering slowly around the room, she ran her fingers lovingly over the books as she went. There were volumes on natural history, philosophy, agriculture, and even a few novels tucked away in one corner. In examining the books, she could tell they were not just here for show as in the libraries of some great houses.Overwhelmed at the number and variety, she was uncertain what to look at while she waited. Then she noticed a small book of poetry sitting out on a table. Picking up the book, she settled into a comfortable leather covered chair to wait. Although she tried reading, her thoughts kept returning to Darcy. What would her life have been like if she had accepted his proposal? They would probably have been married by now, and she would be mistress here. This would have been her chair, her library. What would it be like to live in such luxury? As she pondered this, she heard a door behind her open.Assuming it was Georgiana coming for her, she turned and instead found herself face to face with Mr. Darcy. Immediately, she felt the bloom of embarrassment rushing to her cheeks. Although her legs felt unsteady, she somehow managed to stand and give him a formal curtsey in greeting.“I am so sorry to disturb you, sir. Your sister asked me to wait here while she tended to…to something.” Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “I had no idea you were at home.” Elizabeth was surprised he did not look angry. In fact, she thought she saw some amusement on his face.“Georgiana asked you to wait here?” he asked.“Yes, she said…” Elizabeth stopped when she realized what had happened. Georgiana had arranged this, and it appeared to be as much of a surprise to him as it was to her. This was definitely one of those awkward moments she had read about in novels in which the heroine wished she could drop through a hole in the floor or fly away out the window. Her uneasiness grew as Darcy continued to watch her with a studied intensity, his stare only adding to her discomfort.Tired of not understanding why he so often looked at her this way, she said, “Mr. Darcy, is my hair coming out of its pins or sticking out in some strange and amusing way?” Elizabeth reached up and touched a hand to her head.He looked confused. “No, not at all.”“Then do I have some sort of soot or dirt on my face?” This time she touched her cheek.“No, you do not. Why do you ask?” Darcy clearly did not understand.“It is the way you are looking at me. If there is something amiss in my appearance, I wish you would tell me so I may correct it.”Then he did the last thing she would ever have expected. He laughed. It was such a deep, warm sound, and it resonated through her, setting her body humming in a strange though not uncomfortable way.“Miss Bennet, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. In fact, may I say you are looking quite lovely this afternoon? The color of that gown suits you.”Elizabeth murmured a surprised ‘thank you’ at his compliment. Another awkward silence extended between them before he finally spoke again.“Please forgive me, Miss Bennet,” he said warmly. “I am neglecting my duties. Welcome to Darcy House. I am very pleased to see you here.”
Thanks for inviting me and for the opportunity to share a little of my work in progress!
About Susan Mason-Milks
You might be surprised to learn that when Ms. Mason-Milks read Pride and Prejudice for the first time in the eighth grade, she was not impressed! That changed when she saw the now famous 1995 mini-series version of the story. Deciding to give Austen another chance, she read all the novels and fell in love. She says, “Writing stories inspired by Austen’s books offers a way to spend more time with characters I’ve grown to love. Just because the book ends, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.”
She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a 101 year-old house with her husband and three naughty cats.
Ms. Mason-Milks is a very proud member of the Austen Authors group blog. For the blog, she has helped coordinate several creative projects including a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice called the Pride and Prejudice 200 Project (P&P200), a unique retelling of the story in real time, and the innovative Pride and Prejudice Reader’s Choice story, The Bennet Brother, in which readers voted on the plot direction each week. Both of these will be published in eBook format sometime next year. In the spring of 2014, she’ll be coordinating the real time retelling of Persuasion (P200).
Web address: www.austen-whatif-stories.com
Facebook: Susan Mason-Milks