Hello dear readers! I’m so excited to welcome back author Joana Starnes to Austenesque Reviews today! Joana has had such an amazing year and it wasn’t too long ago she was here celebrating her release of Miss Darcy’s Companion! And now she has a fabulous new release out – Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter! Joana pops in today to share one her beautifully romantic scenes between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth – you know the type, be prepared to swoon! – we hope you enjoy! (Scene rated PG-13)
Thank you, Meredith, for ever so kindly welcoming me as your guest today to conclude the blog tour for my latest book at Austenesque Reviews. It’s wonderful to be here again!
Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a journey of self-discovery – the story of Elizabeth Darcy’s journey from duty into love. The synopsis rather hints at that:
When Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures are interrupted by the bearer of distressing news from Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is compelled to accept an offer she would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. An offer of marriage from the all-too-proud Mr Darcy. Yet how is she to live with a husband she hardly knows and does not love? Will she continue to feel trapped in a marriage of convenience while events conspire to divide them? Or would love grow as, day by day and hour after hour, she learns to understand the man she married, before she loses his trust and his heart?
Of course, all JAFF lovers will have already guessed the answer: love would grow, day by day and hour after hour. How could it be otherwise? We could not bear to envisage any other fate for our favourite couple. So no one will be surprised to hear that in this variation they are once again winding their way towards the happily ever after through the maze of difficulties inevitable in an early marriage scenario; through half-truths and misunderstandings ending in sweet harmony and tender reconciliation.
What better way to end the blog tour than with an excerpt showing just that?
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Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter
Excerpt from Chapter 17
“Yes, Sarah, that will do,” Elizabeth impatiently hastened her maid along and waved aside the question about her choice of hairstyle for the day. “No matter. I will see to it myself. Pray go and let Mr Darcy know I will be down directly.”
The red rose discovered on her nightstand had sent her pattering barefoot to the interconnecting door, with only a modicum of sense gaining the upper hand at the last moment and compelling her to knock.
She should have had more sense and donned a dressing gown, she could not help thinking when the knock was answered not by Darcy but his valet, who trained his eyes on the doorframe and barely moved a muscle other than those designed to govern his lips as he tonelessly delivered, “The master has repaired below-stairs, Ma’am.”
“Oh. Pray be so kind and ask him to wait,” Elizabeth breathlessly instructed as she dashed out of sight to spare their blushes and also to summon Sarah.
The dear girl was quick to do her duty and just as quick to leave the bedchamber to convey the second message to Mr Darcy, as requested, while Elizabeth’s fingers carelessly worked her unruly mane into a plait, pinned it up into a chignon and hid away the unprepossessing result of her efforts under the ubiquitous cap before hastening below-stairs. She found her husband in the breakfast parlour, waiting by the window, in a posture she had grown to recognise so well and find so endearing – that is, when he was not looking like thunder.
That morning he was very far from it. A warm smile lit his eyes at her entrance and Elizabeth returned it in full.
“Good morning,” she greeted him brightly. “I am so glad you have not left yet.”
“I got your word. But I also wished to see you before leaving.”
He came to take her hands.
“Have you slept well?”
She gave a conscious little laugh.
“Too well, it seems. Lost to the world. You should have woken me.”
“I returned very late.”
“It would not have mattered. But thank you for the exquisite rose.”
He merely nodded in response, and Elizabeth fell silent too, uncommonly lost for words. At last she found some, and she whispered, “I hope your day goes well,” as her hand came up to brush an imaginary spec of dust from his lapel.
There could have been no spec of dust, of course. Weston would have never countenanced sending his master out into the world looking anything less than impeccable. So her hand brushed at nothing but smooth cloth, then remained still, and her eyes flashed up at his, to find such longing there that her heart lurched, instantly full to the brim. Instantly overflowing with a rush of feeling that urged her forward to stand on tiptoe and press her lips to his.
The response was immediate and fierce. She was clasped to his chest, the crushing embrace vying with wild kisses to render her utterly breathless, clinging to his shoulders as to the only anchor in a dizzying world. And hungry kisses still devoured her lips, roamed over her face and returned to her lips again to claim them more forcefully than ever, as her fingers swiftly obeyed the natural compulsion of making their way into his hair to caress, and hold, and keep him to her, little risk as there was of him drawing away. Just as eager, his hands swept over her back, stroking, clasping, then stilled and the hold tightened, as though he would never let her go.
“Good Lord, Elizabeth, I missed you,” he groaned against her lips, crushing them under his again with renewed hunger. Insatiable.
She fervently responded and only drew away to whisper, “I was always here.”
“You were not. You were resentful, distant… How could I come to you while we were hurling such hurtful– ?” His words came in a rush, disjointed and barely comprehensible between burning kisses, but he continued to intersperse them nonetheless – not that Elizabeth could have wished him to do otherwise. “Why do you imagine… that I took myself away… for hours on end… and two nights in a row?”
She drew back then.
“Why?” she asked, searching his eyes.
“Because I could not bear to be near you and not come to you, and I could not come to you when you were so clearly against me. Because in the midst of the harshest reproaches flying between us I could not tell if what I wanted most was to throttle you or kiss you.”
Her warm laughter rang between them.
“Oh, I would say kiss me. Definitely kiss me, if those were the only options.”
“Not the only options. Not by a fair margin,” he playfully growled back, and did kiss her again, not needing further prompting.
Their breaths came in ragged gasps when they stopped for air, still clinging to each other.
“Should you not go? You will be late,” she offered eventually, when she discovered she could speak.
“Go? I am not going anywhere!”
“Foolish man,” she tenderly admonished. “You must. Your uncle is expecting you.”
“What I must do,” he said showering her face and head with a much tamer smattering of little kisses, “is have a word with that girl of yours, Sarah, and bribe her into throwing all these godawful caps away. Whoever has devised them? The devil’s own invention, I call it. I love your hair. Why must you cover it?”
“You will not love it quite so much this morning. It looks a fright. I took no pains with it, so that I did not tarry for too long and miss you, but…” With a wide smile and a sweeping gesture worthy of Master Shakespeare and his Katharina, she removed it and dropped it to the floor. “Off with this bauble that becomes me not. I am all too happy to throw it underfoot.”
“And good riddance,” he smiled into her hair. His kisses drifted to her brow and then her cheek, before he reached to raise her chin and her eyes to his. “You must know this is where it ends, the point of comparison,” he said warmly, yet very gently. “You are no shrew, my love and, my abhorrence of caps aside, I would never seek to tame you. Nor, heaven forefend, have you see me as your lord and master demanding wifely duty and unquestioning obedience.”
She stroked his face, relishing the words, praying he was in earnest. Only time would tell. But she would not ask, then and there, how his avowal reflected on their major disagreement. She would not have him think she had come to kiss him breathless just to gain her uncle and aunt admittance into the house in Berkeley Square. Instead, she willingly abandoned herself to further kisses, forgetting he should have left the house already. Apparently so did he, as his hands roamed all the way from her back into her tresses.
“As for this hairstyle, do not disparage it. It seems a vast deal easier to unravel than any, if you ask me,” he raggedly whispered, burying his fingers into it with such thoroughness of purpose that the pins began to fall to the floor, first one, then another, and another.
“For shame, Fitzwilliam! In the breakfast parlour?” she chided, but there was no sting to it, for she did not draw back from his embrace, nor from his ministrations.
“Mmm-hm…” he murmured, his lips on hers again and his hands straying into caresses the breakfast parlour was indeed ill-suited for.
She still did not withdraw, but covered his hand with hers and kept it on her breast even as she sensibly offered, “You cannot cancel your engagement with your uncle without notice. You should go and see him.”
“Not remotely possible, I fear,” he replied between kisses. “Lord Langthorne will have to be satisfied with a full letter of apology.”
“An obvious solution springs to mind, you know,” she teased, then elaborated. “That he might be better satisfied with a note changing the hour? Although goodness knows how you might pacify Weston for having his first efforts go to waste.”
Darcy shrugged, supremely indifferent to his valet’s plight.
“Weston will have to bear the disappointment.”
And so he had. As it happened, he also had to bear the discomfort of witnessing his master returning above-stairs carrying Mrs Darcy in his arms. Well-accustomed to the ways of the world, albeit not to such displays in this household, Mr Weston knew when to make himself scarce. Yet he was not even allowed that comfort, but was asked to cool his heels in the hallway, until Mr Darcy re-emerged with a curt, “Pray have this sent to Langthorne House at once.”
And then the door was slammed shut and Mr Weston was left to his own devices, to stare at the hastily sealed note addressed in such poor penmanship that it bore no resemblance to Mr Darcy’s hand at all, but looked strikingly like one of Mr Bingley’s scribbles. Mr Weston’s brow twitched and, as he knew the master from his boyhood and moreover as the hallway was deserted, he allowed himself a wide grin and an understanding shrug.
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*Sigh* Oh I love it! Poor Mr. Weston! LOL! And yay for Darcy and Elizabeth! I love when they are like this. Thanks for sharing such a sweet and lovely excerpt with us, Joana! I’m very intrigued to learn what took place before this happy scene!
Thanks again for the wonderful welcome, Meredith! You’re ever so kind and it’s such a pleasure to be your guest, every time!
Connect with Joana
In conjunction with her very lovely post, Joana Starnes generously brings with her TWO kindle EBOOKs of Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter, for me to give away to TWO lucky readers!!!!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Joana!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Joana!
- This giveaway ends December 9th!
To check out the rest of the tour, click the image above.
Thank you to Joana and Claudine for inviting my to participate!