I am currently celebrating the release of Miss Bingley and the Baron! This story is a companion to my Pride and Prejudice variation “Not In Want of a Wife”, although it can be enjoyed as a standalone.
Here is the blurb:
Miss Caroline Bingley is convinced that the surest way to establish herself with the upper classes is to marry a wealthy gentleman. After losing Mr. Darcy and his ten thousand a year to Elizabeth Bennet, Caroline is even more determined to find a match that will shake off the ‘stench of trade’ from her father’s occupation as a merchant.
She travels with her sister and brother-in-law to their estate in Scarborough, where she learns that their next-door neighbor is a baron with a fortune surpassing that of Mr. Darcy’s–and he is reportedly young and handsome, too!
Lord Theodore Connally has recently returned from his Grand Tour after his father’s death. As a single man in possession of a large fortune, he is especially leery of fortune hunters and social climbers. Having been warned by his friend that Miss Bingley is just such a lady, he is determined to avoid her at all costs. However, when he meets her by chance and she mistakes him for a gardener, Theo finds her intriguing.
Theo devises a plan to test whether Miss Bingley is truly a fortune hunter, by asking his best friend– the gardener’s son who is to become a clergyman– to switch places with him.
Caroline has no idea that the kind and funny man she has befriended is actually the baron, nor that the foppish baron whom she is in pursuit of is actually the gardener’s son in disguise. When the “baron” proposes to her, Caroline must decide what matters to her more: the fortune and title she seeks, or the man she never expected to fall in love with.
Here is your exclusive excerpt from the book! These scenes take place in one of my favorite chapters of the book, when Caroline Bingley and company visit the Hayburn Wyke Waterfall in Yorkshire, UK.
Caroline hardly recognized Mr. Hodge, dressed as he was, and not in the rough attire of a worker. He looked well, for a gardener’s son, she decided. His attire was simple, but neat. She had been surprised to learn that the man she had taken for a servant was in fact a gentleman, although a poor one of low birth. Mr. Beaujean, she discovered, was of no consequence to her. Although a gentleman by birth, his estate in Birmingham was practically bankrupt and he was already engaged to a cousin of significant fortune. Her impressions of Lord Connally ought to have excited more interest, given his fortune and social standing.
Lord Connally was handsome, but decidedly a coxcomb like Mr. Beaujean. The pair were nearly identical in style, their hair perfectly coiffed, their dress immaculate. They wore bright colors cut in the latest fashions, with high collars that bordered on the ridiculous. Lord Connally, especially, seemed a buffoon. He walked and spoke with an affected air, and used the phrase “I say” altogether too many times in conversation.
She hoped his mannerisms would not grate on her during their outing. The following day, at half-past twelve, they gathered at Raven’s Cliff to begin their adventure. Mrs. Gilbert Hurst did not join them, but she bid them all to give her an excellent description of the falls when they returned, before settling herself down on her sofa to take a long nap.
Lord Connally’s barouche landau was waiting in front.
“I say, what a fine day for a drive!” Lord Connally exclaimed, coming out to greet them. Today, he was dressed in a bright pink striped waistcoat with a burgundy coat over it and a tall, fashionable hat perched on his head. He strode over to shake the hands of the gentlemen and kiss the hands of the ladies.
“I hope you are all having a pleasant day. I promise to do my best to make it even better!”
Lord Connally was to drive the barouche landau himself, leaving plenty of room in the carriage itself for four passengers, and a seat beside himself on the driver’s box for one more. A servant was to accompany them on the rumble seat.
Their party organized itself. Mr. and Mrs. Hurst joined Mr. Beaujean in the barouche. Caroline prepared to sit with her sister when Lord Connally called to her.
“I say, Miss Bingley, would you not rather sit here on the barouche box beside me? The view will be rather better up here.”
Caroline glanced at Louisa to see whether she minded, but her sister was all encouragement.
“Do not mind us! We shall do well enough without your company, Caroline.”
Caroline accepted Lord Connally’s assistance in climbing up on the seat and then they were off.
To Caroline’s surprise, Lord Connally did not direct the horses along the lane, but once they left the gates, he turned them south down a narrow dirt road, one which she presumed was mainly used by the local farmers. The road skirted the farmland on one side, with the sea-cliffs on their other side.
Lord Connally pointed. “All this farmland belongs to me, Miss Bingley. Now, what do you think of that?”
“With so much at your disposal, you must have many people who depend on you for their livelihood. Do you intend to be at home much, now that you have returned from your tour?”
“Well, who can say? A man of fashion, like myself, has many demands on his time. Many places to go, many people to visit. Who knows but that I may be here one day, and then gone for a twelve-month the next? But for the present, there is nothing to draw me away.”
Caroline noticed the scenery had gradually changed from cultivated farmland into open moors, much like the ones she had crossed returning to Fairclough from Lord Connally’s orchards. “You must enjoy the wilderness of this country when you are here.”
“Yes, indeed! In fact, these moors will become quite pretty. If you are here through August, you shall see them bloom with heather. Do you intend to stay long in this area?”
“Alas, I do not think I shall be here long. A few weeks- a month, perhaps- and then my sister has promised to take me down for the remainder of the Season.”
“Well, should you return afterwards, perhaps you may see it.”
“Perhaps,” Caroline nodded.
The road narrowed as they made their way down the coastline. In some places, it grew so narrow that the servant was obliged to climb down and walk the horses slowly, so as not to upset them. Despite these slow-downs, they reached the stream called Hayburn Beck in under an hour.
“Here, we must leave the carriages behind and walk,” Mr. Hodge told them.
“Is it very far?” Louisa asked.
“Not far at all,” Mr. Hodge answered her. “You shall find it an easy walk.”
“As I told you,” Lord Connally said, “Mr. Hodge is an excellent guide. We shall be in good hands with him.”
They left the horses with the servant and headed down the footpath. The steps were rocky and uneven. Caroline felt her foot give way as she missed a step.
“Careful, miss!” Mr. Hodge cried, catching her elbow to prevent her from falling.
“Thank you, Mr. Hodge,” Caroline said. She straightened her gown to calm her nerves before continuing.
“Allow me to assist you,” he said, offering his arm to her. She gratefully accepted.
“Have you come here often, Mr. Hodge?” When he did not immediately reply, she said his name again. “Mr. Hodge?”
“Er, oh, it has been many years since I came here last. Not since I was a boy. We used to come here all the time back then, Ol– that is, Lord Connally and I.”
“I see,” Caroline replied. “Forgive me, but I am surprised the late Lord Connally would allow his only son to play with his servant’s son.”
“He– I was always a favorite of his, you see. And with so few other playmates the same age on the estate, I suppose he thought there was little harm in allowing it.”
Caroline lowered her eyes slightly. “I apologize for presuming you were merely a servant, the other day. When I encountered you pruning the pear trees–”
“There is no need to apologize. I would have made the same presumption in your position.”
“You must be blessed to have had His Lordship as your patron, to receive a gentleman’s education and the promise of a living.”
“Indeed, I am very blessed for it.” Mr. Hodge answered. “But if I could have chosen any occupation for myself, it would have been to be a gardener.”
“The very occupation I mistook you for having. You must have a great love of the outdoors, then.”
“I could spend all day out of doors. Sometimes I think I must have been born as a wood sprite, and my parents found me beneath a tree and brought me home.”
His comment made Caroline laugh. “And what if you had been a wood sprite?”
“Well, one day I might simply run off into the woods, never to return again. Or perhaps I might simply sprout into a tree, that I might be forever rooted.”
“Oh? What kind of tree would you be? A spruce, no doubt. Tall and finely fitted no matter the season.”
“No, not a spruce! A spruce is forever shedding its needles. No, I would be a mighty oak, with strong branches that little boys could climb up when they want to hide from their tutors.” “You have an excellent sense of humor, Mr. Hodge,” Caroline commended, her eyes lit up.
Theo cursed himself. This was harder than he thought, pretending to be someone else. Already, he had nearly given himself away in his conversation with Miss Bingley. Beaujean glanced at him with amusement, trying to keep a stiff upper lip.
“We must be nearly there, Mr. Hodge,” Miss Bingley remarked. “I can hear the sound of the waterfall.”
The wooded path opened up to a rocky beach. There, to one side, where the Hayburn Beck emptied into the ocean, were the falls. The rains had been heavy enough the week prior that the water came down in two falls over the rocks, spilling into the pool below before finishing its journey to the sea.
“Oh, how lovely!” Miss Bingley exclaimed, clasping her hands together.
“It is sommat, innit?” Oliver added, momentarily slipping into his old Yorkshire accent before correcting himself. “I mean, it is rather beautiful, is it not?” Fortunately, no one besides Theo seemed to notice his lapse.
“It’s not such a large waterfall, is it?” Mrs. Hurst said.
“Not so large, no, nor so very spectacular. There are others in Yorkshire which far surpass it. But it is a welcome retreat in this part of the country, nonetheless.” Oliver said.
“And quite refreshing!” Theo added. He took off his coat and hat and laid them aside, then sat on a large boulder to remove his shoes.
“What are you doing?” Miss Bingley asked.
“Going for a dip. Care to join me, Miss Bingley?”
“I ought not to,” she answered.
Theo waded into the shallow water until the rushing water flowed over his head. He let out a shout. “It’s cold! But wonderful!” He splashed about in the water. Miss Bingley, watching him from the side, looked as though she regretted her decision not to come in.
“You’ll join me, won’t you, Connally?” Theo said to Oliver.
“I had better not. I will spoil my new breeches,” he said with as much of an affected air as he could.
“How about you, Beaujean?”
“I am with Connally, I shall pass. Enjoy your swim, Hodge!” He sat down on a large rock to watch the scene.
“Well, I do not care about spoiling my attire!” Mr. Hurst declared. “If Mr. Hodge can go in, then so shall I!” He began stripping his outerwear before getting in the water.
“Reggie, really!” Mrs. Hurst complained. “Such childishness.”
“Perhaps it would not hurt to put my feet in,” Miss Bingley said, changing her mind. She sat down on a rock, prepared to take her boots off. But her sister put a stop to it.
“If the gentlemen are to swim, I think it best if the ladies take a walk along the shore, don’t you agree, Caroline?”
“If the lovely ladies are not opposed to it, I shall join you,” Oliver put forward.
“Not at all, Your Lordship,” Mrs. Hurst said. “You would be most welcome to accompany us.”
To celebrate the release, I’m running a giveaway with some awesome prizes.
One (1) winner will receive a Miss Bingley and the Baron gift package containing:
- A paperback copy of Miss Bingley and the Baron
- A paperback copy of Not In Want of a Wife
- A necklace with the quote from Pride and Prejudice “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”
- A 3-oz bag of “Caroline Bingley” inspired tea from Adagio Teas.
Two (2) winners will each receive:
- A paperback copy of Miss Bingley and the Baron
Two (2) winners will each receive:
- An ebook (epub) copy of Miss Bingley and the Baron