One dark secret can completely ruin a bright future...
After capturing the heart of the most eligible bachelor in England, Elizabeth Bennet believes her happiness is completeuntil the day she unearths a stash of anonymous, passionate love letters that may be Darcy's, and she realizes just how little she knows about the guarded, mysterious man she married...
Praise for Jane Odiwe:
"Odiwe's elegantly stylish writing is seasoned with just the right dash of tart humor." Booklist
"Jane Odiwe writes with such eloquence and style that you can't be helped for thinking that you are reading Jane Austen!" A Bibliophile's Bookshelf
"Odiwe's research and passion for the Regency era shine." Austenprose
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About the Author
Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen, as well as Lydia Bennet's Story and Willoughby's Return. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.
Read an Excerpt
With little exception, the anticipation of a long-awaited and desirous event will always give as much, if not more pleasure, than the diversion itself. Moreover, it is a certain truth that however gratifying such an occasion may prove to be, it will not necessarily unite prospect and satisfaction in equal accord. Mrs Bennet's musings on the affairs of the day at Longbourn church were similarly divided. The ostrich feathers on her satin wedding hat quivered tremulously as she surveyed her surroundings with a self-satisfied air. Evening sunlight streamed through the long windows of the sitting room gilding her hair and silk pelisse, simultaneously burnishing the top of Mr Bennet's polished pate with a halo of amber softness.
"Hardly has a day passed during the last twenty-three years when I have not thought about my daughters' nuptials with the certain foreknowledge that my beautiful Jane and clever Lizzy would do their duty to their parents, their sisters, and themselves," said Mrs Bennet to her husband on the day that her eldest daughters were married.
"Yes, my dear," Mr Bennet replied with a wry smile, "even when you professed your resolution that they should both die old maids not two months ago, I am sure you knew better in your heart."
"Such weddings as Longbourn and, indeed, the whole county have never seen before," exclaimed Mrs Bennet, fingering the new lace about her shoulders with an air of appreciation whilst ignoring her husband's bemused comments. "Not that there were some matters that would have pleased me better had I been allowed to have a hand in the arrangements myself. I should have liked to host a party if I had been permitted, but Elizabeth did not think it fitting. I am sure our neighbours would greatly have appreciated the celebration, but who am I to be considered? I am only the mother of the brides married to two of the richest men in the kingdom! It is not as if it was a question of money. I am sure dear Darcy would have liked it if not for Elizabeth's opposition. Still, it was something to see the condescension of our neighbours; I daresay Lady Lucas will not feel herself so superior now. But truly, nothing will vex me today; all has surpassed my greatest expectations."
"I am glad to hear it, my dear, because without a doubt, if such long anticipation had been disappointed in some way, I am not entirely sure I could have borne the next twenty-three years with the same equanimity."
"Who would have thought it, Mr Bennet," said his lady, talking over the top of him, "that I should live to see two of my daughters so exceptionally advantaged in married life?"
"Quite so, my dear," replied he, "though I must add that however well placed I believed my daughters might find themselves, I had always planned on exceeding my own five and forty years to witness their felicity. Indeed, possessing the knowledge that your own long surviving line of aged relatives are still thriving as I speak, I must confess that I am a little astonished to think you had supposed to be dead before our daughters attained the matrimonial state."
"Oh, Mr Bennet, you speak such nonsense. But you will not tease me out of my present happy disposition. And, I must say, I received some comfort from the fact that Miss Bingley and her sister Mrs Hurst were forced by a rightful sense of obligation and due civility to treat our family in the correct manner today. Oh, yes, Mr Bennet, I cannot tell you how much it gratified me to see the smug, self-satisfied expressions they generally display upon their ill-favoured countenances quite wiped away. I thought Miss Bingley looked likely to choke when I turned to see Elizabeth and Jane walking down the aisle by your side."
"I did not observe any greater condescension towards our family than that which they usually bestow, Mrs Bennet," replied her spouse, "though I must admit I did not really pay them any great attention. My own thoughts and looks were only concerned with our dear girls."
"What a double blow it must have been for Miss Bingley. I expect all the while she was hoping that Mr Darcy might break his promise to Elizabeth and leave her at the altar. And I am sure, whatever she might have said on welcoming Jane to the Bingley family, that the sincerity of her wishes was entirely false. Well, I cannot help feeling our advantage over those Bingley women. And Mr Darcy was as charming and obliging as ever. I think him quite superior to dear Mr Bingley in many ways, even if I hadn't always liked him."
"I'm sure Mr Darcy would be delighted to hear it."
"I daresay he would, for he certainly needed to earn my good opinion after the way he strutted about Hertfordshire with his proud ways. However, I'm not entirely convinced by Lizzy's partiality, whatever she might protest on his having been misunderstood and winning her round. A man ought to have a tongue in his head, indeed, especially a man of such consequence."
"I should hate to hear you on the subject of despising a man if this is your approbation, Mrs Bennet. And I loathe to be contradicting you once more, but I cannot agree with you. I believe Lizzy to be very much in love with Mr Darcy, as much in love as dear Jane is with her Mr Bingley."
"Well, I certainly think I might fancy myself in love if I knew I was married to the owner of Pemberley, with a house in town and ten thousand a year, at least!"
"I am sure such good fortune helps love along. No doubt, my own prospects animated the feelings you had whilst we were courting."
Mrs Bennet looked at her husband in exasperation. "Oh, Mr Bennet, it was nothing like the matter. There is no comparison. The wealth of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley is a hundred times your consequence, as well you know. La! With Jane and Lizzy so well married; 'tis enough to make me distracted!"
"I am pleased to discover our poverty is in no way dispiriting to your outlook, my dear. But I cannot join you in your exertions. I find myself feeling most melancholy. I am delighted that I need not worry that our daughters will suffer any lack of wealth or hardship; but despite the satisfaction these assurances bring, I cannot help but add that I shall miss them very much."
At this point Mrs Bennet burst into tears. "With my dearest Lydia so lately married and now Jane and Lizzy having left home, I shall have little to do, especially now Mary and Kitty will be gone to their sisters by the bye. I do not know what shall become of me; indeed, I do not. I shall be quite alone in this house with only my memories coupled with the dreadful understanding that William and Charlotte Collins are counting the days to your demise. What misfortune to have our estate entailed away for that odious pair to inherit. It is all Lady Lucas ever talks to me about these days: of her daughter's delight at the prospect of being able to return one day into Hertfordshire."
"Come, come now," insisted Mr Bennet, passing over a pocket handkerchief and rising from his seat with the intention of leaving the room. "I see no reason for tears. I am sure one or all of your daughters will accommodate you when that unhappy day befalls you and, until then, I flatter myself that you will have the comfort of knowing that you are not entirely alone. I am here, or at least I will be when I am not away."
"Away! Do you intend to leave me, sir? Where are you going, Mr Bennet?"
"To Pemberley, of course," came his emphatic reply.
"To Pemberley and you never said a word of it. But do you intend to go alone and without an invitation?"
Mr Bennet stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I suppose if you should wish to accompany me, then you may enjoy your share of the invitation."
"An invitation! Has Lizzy invited us to Pemberley so soon?" asked Mrs Bennet, scarcely able to keep the astonishment out of her voice.
"No, Mr Darcy himself, no less," came the triumphant answer, "has not only issued the invitation, but also expects us for Christmas!"