Getting this next novel started has been a bit of a struggle. I wanted to do a P&P book from Darcy’s point of view, but what could I bring to the story that would be something new?
The “what if”s always intrigue me, especially when it comes to two people happening to meet when they so easily could have missed their opportunity to get together. When I think of my own marriage (or those of my 2 sons) for example, it’s so clear that a small change anywhere along the line could have made all the difference. (see more on that here)
As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again… (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 46)
In this case, though, I’m thinking of Darcy and Elizabeth. What if Mr. Bingley had rented some other house and not Netherfield. What if Darcy had not accepted the invitation to spend some time there? What if he had become engaged (or even married) to someone else before meeting Elizabeth?
So I decided it would be interesting to start this book (tentatively titled Fitzwilliam Darcy: In His Own Words) before the timeline of Pride and Prejudice to take a look at those questions. I’ve got less than 50 pages written so far, and the idea is still evolving. (I don’t plot my books, as you may already know). So I’d love to hear what you think of the concept. Here’s the prologue as it stands now (remember it’s Darcy telling the story):
I still occasionally suffer that recurrent dream – a nightmare, really.
I awake at Darcy House in London. Morning light is filtering through the draperies at the windows, painting ghostly shadow patterns across the opposite wall. I feel a great sense of well being at the start of a new day. All is right with the world, or at least my portion of it.
Then I turn toward the other side of the bed and see… not Elizabeth, as I expect, but the Honorable Miss Amelia Lambright. Only of course she is no long an honorable miss, not when she has spent the night in a man’s bed. Then I suddenly remember why she is there. Her name is Miss Lambright no longer; she is Mrs. Darcy now.
My heart lurches and I break into a cold sweat, not because the former Miss Lambright is so horrid unappealing, but because she is not Elizabeth.
I tell myself it surely must be a hallucination or some trick of the light. So I shake my head to clear any cobwebs, rub my eyes and blink. Still, the wrong woman is before me. Please, God, let it be a dream!
I fight to awaken, to claw my way back to the world where I belong, the world where Mrs. Darcy has not blonde but dark, satiny hair and sparkling eyes. My throat is constricting; I cannot breathe. I cannot find my voice to call out. Elizabeth, where are you? I must find her! My life depends on it.
When on these disturbing occasions I at last come to myself, it is many minutes before my heart and breathing return to normal, and longer still until my mind can quiet itself.
Even after I have verified that Elizabeth is indeed beside me where she belongs; beheld her face, a peaceful portrait of repose in whatever meager light offers; pulled her warm, familiar form to fit close against mine; and heard her sleepy but unmistakable voice murmuring my name with affection…
Even then my soul quakes within me for how close the vision from which I have just awakened came to being true, how close I came to missing Elizabeth altogether. Then she and I would have been only two ships sailing the same stretch of sea, perhaps even passing within sight of each other occasionally but never happening to come into a common port together, at least not until it had been too late.
My happier outcome depended on the slimmest thread of unlikely circumstances being precariously strung together without error. At any one of a dozen junctures, the course of my life could have carried me in a completely different direction.
When I consider this, I shudder. Then I thank God for His providential care in guiding me safely through. I thank Bingley for Netherfield. And Wickham. Strangely enough, now, years later, I can think back with some philosophy, enough to acknowledge the part he unwittingly played.
Were it not for Wickham and his nefarious but timely intervention, I would likely be married to Amelia Lambright today.
What do you think? Are you intrigued? What other ideas would you like to see me explore in this (or another) novel?
2/2/21 UPDATE: The book is essentially done! Just some editing, formatting, and cover design to go. Estimated publication date will be some time in May. Stay tuned! Official blurb:
What was Mr. Darcy’s life like before he met Elizabeth Bennet? – before he stepped onto the Pride and Prejudice stage at the Meryton assembly? More importantly, where is he and what is he doing all the time he’s absent from the page thereafter? And what is his relationship to a woman named Amelia?
With Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words, the iconic literary hero finally tells his own story, from the traumas of his early life to the consummation of his love for Elizabeth and everything in between.
This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Darcy’s point of view – a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us. As it happens, Darcy’s journey was more tortuous than she let on, his happy ending with Elizabeth in jeopardy at every turn in his struggle between duty and his heart’s desire.