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Thank you, Ceri, for welcoming me today at ‘Babblings of a Bookworm’ to talk about my newest book, ‘The Unthinkable Triangle’. I’m very happy to be back, it’s such a pleasure to be here!
I hope you won’t be very shocked to hear that my latest story is a rather angsty one. It springs from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at the time of Elizabeth’s visit into Kent. But Mr. Darcy doesn’t get the chance to make his very ungentlemanlike proposal because Colonel Fitzwilliam has just beaten him to the post, offered marriage and has been accepted. We can all imagine Darcy’s feelings on the matter. But I know that angst isn’t your cup of tea, Ceri, so instead of an excerpt full of longing and anguish, I have chosen a happy one – or as happy as Mr. Darcy can be under the circumstances.
The excerpt is from a further section in the book. Mr. Bingley, now married for some time to the lady of his dreams, goes house-hunting in Staffordshire, living his pregnant wife and her dearest sister to spend a few days in town. At Georgiana’s spur-of-the-moment invitation, they are not to stay at the Bingley townhouse – but at Darcy’s. And Mr. Darcy should be pleased about it, were it not for the fact that the love of his life is still engaged to his closest friend.
Over several months, Darcy had sought to come to terms with his predicament, with little success. But now, for a few brief days, he has decided to take the moment as it comes and for once not think about what tomorrow might bring. Instead, he is determined to enjoy a most unusual morning, when Elizabeth offers to assist Georgiana in learning the quadrille in preparation for her coming-out– if he would be so kind to partner her.
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They launched with gusto into the sprightly dance and bowed and turned and twirled around each other on strains of lively music as, in their seats behind them, Mrs. Annesley smiled benignly and Jane clapped the time, seemingly well-pleased with the morning’s entertainment. They were not the only ones. Georgiana beamed, clearly enjoying dancing practice more than ever and, with the warm glow of Elizabeth’s smiling countenance before him, Darcy abandoned himself wholeheartedly to the surreal experience.
It was equally surreal to find himself going against his very nature and simply take the moment as it came. Delight in the joy of it, the glory. Carpe Diem. No overburdening reflections, no efforts and no schemes.
She was delightful. Rosy-cheeked, eyes sparkling, she skipped and twirled and reached for his hands, to clasp them in her own as they promenaded to change places with the other couple. No gloves and no formality, just the sheer delight of music and light movement – the ‘now’ more precious than all the whys and wherefores.
“I am enjoying this a great deal better than our dance at Netherfield, if I may say so,” she observed, and not even that reference to the past had the power to distress him.
He smiled and replied truthfully, “So am I,” then he released her hand, to receive Georgiana’s for another set of figures.
“This reminds me of a pact I have made with myself,” Elizabeth resumed, as soon as she was returned to him.
“Which pact would that be?”
“To tell you something – as soon as I dared.”
“Now that is novel. As soon as you dared? I do not remember you having any qualms about speaking your mind.”
“That was at the time when I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not.”
“Was there such a time?”
“You know very well there was!”
He did not, in truth, and the intelligence was rather unsettling. But it was unwise to pursue that thought, so he merely asked, “What did you wish to tell me?”
“That you should smile more often. It suits you,” she cast over her shoulder then, finishing her pirouette, she clasped his hand again for yet another promenade.
It was just as well that they were separated by the next figure, for there was no answer he could make to that, but when she returned her glance was almost wistful.
“Or have I overstepped the mark again and spoke too freely?” she asked ever so sweetly, and thus put paid to all his caution, so much so that his reply was frank and prompt.
“No – never. I hope you know you can tell me anything.”
The closing bars rang out and they bowed to each other and to the other couple, then turned to the musicians to clap in a well-deserved show of appreciation. The wisest choice by now might have been to withdraw, but Darcy could not bring himself to do so. Georgiana was enjoying this and the practice seemed eminently useful and–
The deuce! Could he not be truthful, at least for once, at least to himself? He was enjoying this. A morning, a few dances. Where was the harm in something as innocent as that?
The harm, the angel at his right shoulder sternly warned, was in the conversation. In the openness she offered, as warmly and artlessly as Georgiana. To her, it must have been a friendly chat between future cousins. To him, it had all the bitter-sweetness of missed chances at courtship.
‘And what of it?’ the devil on the left shoulder shrugged. He was still harming no one. No one but himself. And he was a grown man, and could surely weather a fleeting spell of sunshine, as well as all the storms past and yet to come.
So when the dancing master announced the Lancers Quadrille, Darcy squared his shoulders and smiled to his sister then his partner, and offered Elizabeth his hand as the dance began. They practised the quadrille until exertion got the better of them all, and it was time to clamour for rest and lemonade and tea. Refreshment was duly brought and they partook of it still chatting freely in a satisfied review of their achievements. Then afterwards Monsieur Dupont suggested they might try a country dance or two, or perhaps a reel – although Mademoiselle D’Arcy, he added, would not be expected to dance the latter at Almack’s.
“I should have danced a reel with you at Netherfield,” Elizabeth laughed breathlessly, once they had returned to the floor to act upon Monsieur Dupont’s suggestion and were merrily skipping arm in arm to the tune of a very lively Scottish air. “I would have dearly loved to hear Miss Bingley enthuse on such skilful footwork. Though I cannot imagine what praise she could have possibly offered that would rank higher than ‘a man without fault’.”
“Surely you are not attempting to make me lose my footing by provoking me into laughter!”
“Perish the thought! Such an underhanded ploy would be its own punishment, and I should feel duly mortified if my dancing partner goes careering into the other couple.”
“Like some clergyman we know.”
They snickered like two errant children.
“It was very ungenerous of you to laugh at him!”
“I did not.”
“Fiddlesticks! I saw you smirking.”
“And you glowered at me for good measure.”
“If you remember my glowering so clearly, how can you in good conscience claim you did not laugh at him?”
“I did not strictly speaking laugh.”
“I never thought I would see the day when you would resort to sophistries.”
“I never thought I would see the day when you would speak in defence of the good vicar.”
“How is Mr. Collins, by the bye?”
“Truly? Are we to speak of Mr. Collins and his poultry in the middle of a Scottish reel?”
“Perhaps not. I find I have not the breath for such a fulsome conversation. We might return to him a little later.”
“Impossible. During the next dance I plan to speak of the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
Elizabeth smiled at that.
“Or perhaps books?” she willingly played the game.
“No, surely not. You can never talk of books in a ballroom.”
“Not with tight-lipped near-strangers, I cannot. But I am prepared to make exceptions for a close acquaintance.”
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I hope you enjoyed reading about a dancing scene where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are not arguing, for a change. If you’d like to find out what happens next, please leave a comment to enter the giveaway of a Kindle copy, available internationally.
Thanks for visiting and reading and good luck!
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Oh my word, so bittersweet! Poor Darcy! Thank you, Joana, for sharing that excerpt with us, it's very compelling.
As Joana has said, she is offering a giveaway of an ebook of 'The Unthinkable Triangle' to an international commenter here. Please comment by the end of the day on Tuesday 13 October to enter, and please leave some way for me to contact you should you be the winner.