I’m so excited to share my newest book, A Favorable Impression with you all! I know that many of you have anticipated this book for a while, especially after the exclusive excerpt I shared last month in my post about Vauxhall Gardens that left off on a bit of a cliffhanger (yes, I know, I’m a bit of a tease!)
What if Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy had met at Pemberley?
Coming home to Pemberley, the last thing Mr. Darcy expected was to find strangers taking a tour! Upon learning that the Gardiners and their nieces have mutual friends among his house party guests, Darcy invites them to stay. Over the course of the week, Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s wit and vivacity make a favorable impression on Darcy, and she is equally impressed with his kindness and generosity.
Mr. Darcy expects that the rest of the Bennet family will be as well-mannered and genteel. But he soon learns they are quite the opposite: loud, vulgar, and rude. To make matters worse, the youngest sister has eloped with Mr. Darcy’s nemesis!
But Darcy is convinced that if he can swallow his pride and ask Elizabeth to marry him, she will certainly accept. He did not count on her also having a sense of pride…
Elizabeth knows her family is imperfect, but being told that she is loved in spite of her reprehensible family is an insult that can not be borne. Such a degrading proposal ruins Elizabeth’s good opinion of Mr. Darcy and convinces her that she was sorely mistaken about his character.
How can Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet find their way back to one another after such favorable impressions have been utterly dashed?
Story behind the book
This is the second standalone novel in The Other Paths Series, a collection of “what if” stories featuring Darcy and Elizabeth.
I don’t know about you, but I like to imagine that whatever universe they exist in, Darcy and Elizabeth will always find their way to each other in the end. It’s what makes Pride and Prejudice variations so appealing, right?
In our own world, the idea of “destined lovers” seems a fantastical one. Would my soulmate and I have been destined to be together no matter the circumstances of our life? Sometimes I like to think so. I met my husband through an online dating site in 2011. We were both living in the same city; I was working part-time for a campus ministry and teaching and performing the harp. He was finishing up his PHD. Interestingly, though, we had several mutual connections that we were previously unaware of. His brother and sister-in-law nearly hired me to play the harp for their wedding, but I had to decline due to an upcoming overseas trip. Would we have met at that wedding if I hadn’t turned it down? We also had at least two friends in common who were students at the university who might have introduced us at some point. And interestingly, we also attended the same church for a while, but were never introduced because it was a large church and we weren’t in the same Sunday School or Bible Study group. If we had been, might we have met there?
The crazy thing is, I think God could have orchestrated our meeting to be anywhere, even in another city entirely. My husband’s first choice of college was MIT in Boston. Before meeting my husband, I nearly moved out to Boston to be in the same city as a long-distance boyfriend. While that relationship was certainly doomed to fail (no doubts there!), if I had moved, might I have then remained in Boston and been single at the right time to meet my husband if he had been accepted to MIT? Only God knows!
But back to the book. The whole idea of the “what ifs” is what sparked my decision to begin this series. Each one is set in its own “universe”, if you will, which means that the characters are all the same, but the circumstances and order of events, even some of the characters’ appearances and traits, can vary.
Book 1, Not In Want of a Wife postulates “what if Darcy and Elizabeth pretended to court?” In an attempt to avoid a loveless marriage, they enter into a fake courtship, with unintended consequences that follow. Book 2 takes an entirely different approach: “what if Elizabeth and Darcy met at Pemberley?”
Since, in Jane Austen’s original masterpiece (the primary universe, if you will), Elizabeth falls in love with Darcy after seeing him in his natural habitat at Pemberley, I wanted to take that idea and spin it around. What if they met there first, instead of at the Meryton Assembly? What if their first impression of each other was a good one, rather than getting off on the wrong foot? It’s a bit like Pride and Prejudice in reverse. Friends, to enemies, to lovers.
A weeklong house-party at Pemberley sets the stage for Our Dear Couple to become acquainted. At the same time, it provides a reunion for Jane and Bingley, who met the previous autumn when Bingley leased Netherfield.
Jane and Bingley get engaged, so Darcy travels to Hertfordshire for the wedding, where he meets the rest of the Bennets. I thought it would be fun to play up on the “meet the parents” moments a bit, because we all know somebody who has freaked out when they met their significant other’s family, and it makes for some humorous moments.
Darcy’s proposal, in which he insults Elizabeth’s whole family (and is roundly rejected!), is the midpoint of the novel.
From there, the second half centers around the London Season. I chose to have Darcy court Caroline Bingley, and I also provided a rival love interest for Elizabeth in the form of Darcy’s cousin, Viscount Fitzwilliam (Colonel Fitzwilliam’s elder brother). These relationships provide additional conflict while Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and work up the courage to admit their love for one another and finally have their Happily Ever After. I hope you’ll join me on this exciting adventure!
Since last month’s excerpt was from the latter half of the novel, this time I will whet your appetite with a piece of Chapter 1.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a favorable impression goes a long way in securing the good opinion of another. Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of Mr. Darcy was first formed during her tour of the beautiful house and grounds of Pemberley with her sister, aunt, and uncle.
In the past few weeks, they visited all the principal sights that the region had to offer. They saw the beauties of Dovedale and Matlock and the ruins at Kenilworth, climbed the Peaks, and toured Chatsworth and Blenheim Palace.
They reached the town of Bakewell and, over breakfast at the inn, discussed if there was anything worth seeing on their way to Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood home of Lambton.
“I believe we are quite near Pemberley,” Mr. Gardiner remarked, sipping his coffee.
“Indeed, we are!” his wife remarked. “I would very much like to see it again if it is not too much trouble.”
Mr. Gardiner consulted his map and determined that it would not take them more than a mile out of their way to see it.
“What do you recall of the place?” Elizabeth asked her aunt.
“I have not been there since I left to go away to school, but it was very grand. As beautiful as Chatsworth, if not more so. And the woods are some of the finest in the county. A river runs through the property and feeds its lake, which I am told boasts excellent fishing.”
“Well, in that case, we had certainly better go!” Mr. Gardiner chuckled. He was an avid fisherman, though he seldom had the opportunity to enjoy it.
Jane agreed. “It all sounds marvelous.”
With nothing to impede their plans, they set off immediately after breakfast.
“You know, Lizzy, I believe your friend Mr. Wickham spent his whole childhood at Pemberley. His father was the steward,” Mrs. Gardiner remarked while they were in the carriage.
Elizabeth felt her cheeks warm. Mr. Wickham’s good looks and charming manners made a fine impression on all the ladies of Meryton when he joined the regiment that was quartered there the past autumn. Elizabeth could not help but like him, also. He was friendly and affable, and though they had little in common, they always seemed to find plenty to discuss. But, though she found his company pleasing and thoughts of him made her heart flutter from time to time, she knew that her lack of dowry made it impossible for their relationship to evolve beyond friendship. Besides that, her youngest sister, Lydia, was hopelessly infatuated with him. They argued more than once when Mr. Wickham had given Elizabeth preference over Lydia at a gathering. Elizabeth hoped Lydia would realize, as she had, that there was little chance of either of them ever receiving an offer of marriage from someone as poor as Mr. Wickham.
Despite all this, Elizabeth was curious to see the home where Mr. Wickham grew up. The carriage passed over a bridge fording the River Derwent, and then the great house came into view, situated prominently on rising ground. The river wound through the property, feeding into a shimmering lake that enhanced the beauty of the mansion overlooking it. Pemberley House was a magnificent stone structure built in the Palladian style with a triangular pediment and columns gracing the front.
“I believe you are right, Aunt Gardiner,” Elizabeth said, “Chatsworth House has its equal in Pemberley.”
Jane suggested, “Perhaps the builders took Chatsworth as their inspiration for Pemberley.”
“Or perhaps Pemberley was the inspiration for Chatsworth,” Elizabeth countered. “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” She grinned.
Aunt Gardiner gave a little laugh. “I do not know which was built first, so I cannot say. But in my opinion, Pemberley is just a little more superior.”
“Who is the master here?” Elizabeth asked.
“Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy,” Mrs. Gardiner replied. “His father and mother knew my parents.”
“Have you ever met the son?”
“Just once, when he was a lad.”
The carriage pulled onto a broad, paved sweep. After requesting to see the house, they were admitted entrance. As they waited for the housekeeper, Elizabeth marveled at the hall. The ceiling, covered in a fresco depicting life-size angels and biblical figures in various scenes, rose two full stories. The walls, too, held several massive Renaissance-era paintings in the same style. The housekeeper entered, her heels clicking along the marble floors. Her graying hair peeped out from beneath her white mob-cap, and she bore a friendly expression. She introduced herself as Mrs. Reynolds.
They asked whether they might be given a tour.
“Oh yes, the master does not return until tomorrow, so I would be happy to show you the house.”
They followed her up a staircase lined with plush red velvet. The main floor of the house bustled with servants carrying on various tasks.
“You must excuse the state of things,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “The house has been vacant since last August. The master spends most of his time in London and other parts of the country. We only received word yesterday that he is arriving with a large party, so we are preparing everything.”
“We seem to have come at a bad time, then,” Jane said.
“Oh no, Miss, we have it all well at hand!” Mrs. Reynolds answered cheerily. “But it is well that you have come today, for much of the furniture was covered yesterday. The house is in a much better state today.”
She showed them the formal drawing room filled with Italian furnishings, a dining room decked in luxurious red carpets and curtains, an impressive library that made Elizabeth more than a little envious, and a music room with gilded walls that matched the gilded harp that stood as the focal point of the room.
“Who plays the harp?” Elizabeth asked.
“The master’s sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy. She is a most accomplished musician. She plays the pianoforte and sings as well.”
“It is a pity that your master is not at home more often to enjoy such splendid surroundings,” Mrs. Gardiner said.
Mrs. Reynolds nodded as she led them up another staircase. “Indeed. If he were to marry, we might see more of him. But I do not know when that will ever be. Here is his picture now. This was painted only last year.” They reached a long gallery filled with paintings of members of the Darcy family. Elizabeth looked at the portrait of Mr. Darcy that stood before them. She judged him to be a young man, perhaps in his late twenties. He had dark, curly hair, a strong jaw, and a noble mien. His expression was somber, but the kindness in his eyes stirred her.
“What sort of man is Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, the very best!” Mrs. Reynolds exclaimed. “I never heard a cross word from him, and I have known him since he was four years old. He takes prodigious good care of all the servants and tenants under his domain, and you never saw a more attentive brother– or a better friend.”
Mr. Gardiner’s head bobbed. “He seems quite a good fellow!”
“Indeed!” Mrs. Reynolds agreed. “I hope you have the good fortune to meet him one day.”
They passed a set of miniatures on display, and Mrs. Gardiner leaned closer to examine them.
“Here is one you might recognize, Lizzy and Jane.” She pointed to a small oval frame containing a portrait of a handsome young man. The artist had expertly captured his boyish smile.
“Why, it is Mr. Wickham!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
Mrs. Reynolds tilted her head in curiosity. “Do the young ladies know Mr. Wickham?”
They explained their acquaintance with him through his being quartered in their hometown.
“He was the son of our late steward,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “But I am afraid he has turned out very wild. Very wild indeed.” She shook her head with a frown.
Elizabeth wondered what she meant by that, but she did not think it proper to ask.
After they saw all the principal public rooms of the house, Mrs. Reynolds turned them over to the care of the gardener to show them the gardens and the grounds.
The beauty of the gardens was beyond anything Elizabeth had ever witnessed. Even the other great houses they had visited were no match. A rose garden with every color of rose you could imagine. Fountain gardens, a hedge maze, a cottage garden, kitchen gardens, and numerous flower gardens. Near the eastern side of the house was a long pool with a fountain springing from the center, in which you could see the reflection of the mansion behind it. All this in addition to the lake and the river and miles upon miles of wooded trails.
As they followed the gardener along the path that encircled the lake, Mr. Gardiner enjoyed the gleam of the trout, bass, and other fish leaping from the water.
Mrs. Gardiner teased. “You wish you could be lazing by the bank catching a few of these, eh?”
“Aye!” he chortled.
Hoofbeats echoed off the bridleway, precipitating the appearance of a rider through the break in the trees. He crossed over the same bridge that their carriage had passed earlier. As he neared the stables, he saw them and tipped his hat.
“That be my master, Mr. Darcy,” the gardener told them.
Elizabeth’s brow wrinkled. “I thought he was not due until tomorrow.”
“Perhaps he decided to come ahead of his guests,” Jane said. “We ought to offer our greetings and apologize for intruding on his land.”
The others agreed, and they walked toward the stables.
Mr. Darcy emerged a few minutes later on foot. He was even more handsome in the flesh than his painting made him out to be. His hair, damp with moisture from his ride, had curled into tight ringlets beneath his fashionable D’orsay top hat. He wore a well-fitting jacket that hugged his athletic form. Elizabeth forced herself not to let her eyes linger on the buckskin leather breeches that clung to his shapely thighs like a second skin but to keep her gaze fixed on his face. His perfectly bow-shaped mouth turned upwards at the creases when he looked at her, causing Elizabeth’s breath to quicken and her own mouth to break into a smile.
He greeted them, walking toward their group. His hailing them signaled that he was open to an introduction. Mr. Gardiner led the way, presenting himself, his wife, and their two nieces.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Mr. Darcy bowed. “What brings you to this area?”
Mr. Gardiner explained that they had been touring Derbyshire the past few weeks and had wished to see the house.
“Of course, you are very welcome. The house and grounds are open to you. Where are you all visiting from?”
“My nieces reside in Hertfordshire,” Mr. Gardiner answered. “My wife and I live in London, but my wife grew up in this area, in Lambton.”
“In fact, I believe I met you once, sir,” Mrs. Gardiner said, “when you were just a boy. Though I doubt very much that you would remember me. I was Miss Andrews then.”
He asked her who her parents were and said, “Ah yes, I do seem to recall them, and I believe I remember you, ma’am. You came with the Davies and the Harris families for a picnic gathering. Charlie Davies and Rose Harris were there, and we all played hide and seek together in the hedge maze.
“You do remember!” Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed in delight.
“Yes, in fact, Charlie and Rose will both be of the party I am hosting this week. They are married now, if you can believe it.”
Mrs. Gardiner was overjoyed. “I have not seen either of them since before my days at school. I am sad to say that we did not keep in touch. I would love to see them again and revisit the old days.”
“In that case, I must insist that you all come to dinner tomorrow evening if you have the time. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than facilitating your reunion with your friends.”
His invitation was most agreeable to all. As he walked them to their carriage, Elizabeth said, “Our meeting you seems quite serendipitous, Mr. Darcy. I hope you know the joy you bring to my aunt by including us in your gathering. I wonder whether we have any other mutual friends in common who will be at your party.”
He smiled. “My sister will be there with her companion, along with several of my friends. Where did you say you were from again, Miss Elizabeth?”
“My sister and I live at Longbourn, near Meryton, in Hertfordshire.”
“Hertfordshire, yes. My good friend Charles Bingley leased a place in Hertfordshire last autumn. I believe it was very near to Meryton.”
Jane’s eyes shot over to them at the mention of that name. Elizabeth’s mouth parted slightly as she looked at her sister in response.
Elizabeth turned her face back toward Mr. Darcy. “We had the good fortune to become acquainted with Mr. Bingley during that time.” She forced herself to smile.
“Did you! As it happens, Bingley wrote yesterday that he and his whole family are to join our party. I rode out a day early to ensure the house was prepared for the additional guests. I am sure that he will be pleased to see you again.”
“I do hope so, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth answered. Jane could only nod in response. Elizabeth took Jane’s hand and squeezed it before entering the carriage.
Mr. Darcy bid them all farewell. “Until tomorrow, then.” He tipped his hat.
“Until tomorrow, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said through the open window as the driver shut their door and climbed up to his seat.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer you the chance to download a free bonus story that accompanies this book. What Happened at Vauxhall is available through this link when you sign up for my email list. It contains spoilers, so it is recommended that you read A Favorable Impression first.
And now for the part you’ve been waiting for: the giveaway! I have one ebook copy (epub format) to offer to a winner who comments on this post.
Open internationally. A valid email address is required. Contest will end on May 2, and the winner will be announced on May 6. Good luck!