Welcome everyone! To the second stop of Gail McEwen's, Stronger Even Than Pride Blog Tour. Kindly brought to you by Jakki at Leatherbound Reviews.
Gail has kindly shared an excerpt of her new book and after reading it, I am very eager to read some more!!!
So without further ado I will hand you over to Gail.
My Kids… Excerpt
First, a little background: In Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth reads the letter pressed upon her in the grove at Rosings Park, it is the turning point in her opinion of both her own cleverness and of Mr Darcy’s character. My premise for Stronger Even Than Pride is simple – what if Elizabeth Bennet was a little too obstinate and headstrong to continue reading past the letter’s blunt and bitter beginning? What if she did not continue on to learn the truth about Mr Wickham? In this book, I took away the “Hunsford moment” for both of them and tried to follow the aftermath to it’s logical conclusion. The journey is not easy, but the outcome is inevitable—how could it be otherwise for two people destined to be together?
To set the scene – it is winter in London; our two main characters find themselves at the same party after not having seen each other since an uncomfortable misunderstanding at Jane and Bingley’s wedding the previous spring. Darcy has convinced himself that his feelings for Elizabeth were nothing more than a fleeting infatuation. Elizabeth has found herself in an unhappy marriage to a profoundly selfish and shallow man, though she tries her best to put on a happy front for the world. Our hero enters the room and…
Darcy froze in the doorway, his heart in his throat. He had braced himself to encounter Wickham, but Elizabeth… For some reason he had not thought Wickham would bring his wife, and the sight of her hit him unexpectedly hard. But it was no matter, he reminded himself; she meant nothing to him. He watched her as she stood smiling and laughing beside Mrs Bingley and several other ladies. Her eyes glittered with that familiar gleam of light-hearted mischief, and his mouth twitched involuntarily in response. Nothing. She is nothing to me. He looked behind him at the men’s tables where Wickham was engrossed in his game, throwing money into the pot with abandon. He turned back to look for signs of disillusionment on his wife’s part, prepared to find satisfaction at the sight, when he noticed his sister among the group of conversing ladies.
A brief panic overcame him. He had only agreed to let Georgiana attend the party after repeated assurances that she was quite past any feelings of distress over George Wickham and would be perfectly fine even if she should see him. She had added excitedly that her dear friends the Franklins were sure to be there, and she was determined to introduce them at last. He crossed the room, telling himself that, although his sister appeared to be perfectly composed and comfortable, she must feel some distress at being so close to Wickham’s wife. Before he reached them, however, they were approached by a young man. He paused, watching as Georgiana performed the introductions and, after a few moments of conversation, allowed the man to escort her to the refreshment table. Was this the Mr Robert Franklin he had heard so much about? But the thought was fleeting because suddenly he was standing before Elizabeth, and of the hundreds of things he wanted to say, of all the questions he wanted to ask, only one was appropriate.
“Mrs Wickham.” He bowed stiffly. “I hope you are well?”
“Mr Darcy,” she gasped. “I am well, thank you, but it appears that I am destined to be surprised by Darcys this evening.”
“Then forgive me for startling you.” She nodded, and they stood awkwardly in silence. “I saw you speaking to my sister just now,” he at last ventured. “Am I to understand that, as a Darcy, you found her surprising, too?”
“I did, I confess, but very pleasantly so.” Elizabeth smiled. “In fact, I found her delightful.”
“And that surprises you?”
“Perhaps,” was all she replied, but her eyes twinkled as she took a drink from the glass she held.
“I see.” He sniffed. “That can only mean, of course, that you expected her to be a copy of me, whom you do not find delightful.”
“I think I must have,” she admitted. “After all, you are all I know of the Darcy family.”
“Well, perhaps now your frankness surprises me. You might at least have pretended to disagree with my assessment.”
She looked at him archly. “You have accused me, on at least one occasion, of professing opinions that are not my own. I have to wonder how you can be certain I am not doing so at this very moment.”
A picture flashed through his mind: Elizabeth sitting at the pianoforte next to his cousin; he approached them, she teased, and then he had made that very accusation. In hindsight, he understood; that was the moment he knew his initial attraction to Miss Bennet had become something deeper and stronger. No matter what might have happened afterwards, he could still recall the rush of relief that arose within him when he had at last admitted those feelings to himself. He remembered the almost giddy expectation of happiness he anticipated once he could declare those feelings. The recollection was so strong and present, he could not help but smile. “As I told you then, I am not afraid of you.”
“Nor should you be. My opinions can be of little interest or import to you now.”
“On the contrary. In fact, I would beg you to clarify one thing in particular. Am I now to infer that you did not find my sister delightful after all?”
“You may. But knowing your sister as you do, you might just as easily infer the opposite.”
“Mrs Wickham, I—” he stopped, smiled, and shook his head. She was obviously teasing him. Just like at Rosings. Against his will, his heart jumped, but then he wondered about her motives. Yes, she was teasing; what he did not know was her purpose in doing so. Were her kind words about Georgiana a way of letting him know that she had kept his secret safe? Or was he, as before, wanting to see something that was not there? Needing to regain control, he held her gaze steadily, searching her eyes for a hint of either mischief or understanding until she faltered and looked away.
That was better.
“We are quite different,” he said carefully after a pregnant silence, “Georgiana and I. I hate to think that anyone’s poor opinion of me would colour their estimation of my sister’s worth.”
She stared at him incredulously for a moment before bursting into laughter.
“Far be it from me to judge a person’s worth on the basis of the behaviour of his or her family!”
“I suppose I deserved that.”
“You did, but I am indisposed to hold grudges tonight, so I shall venture to say in all frankness that I found Miss Darcy to be a pleasant and very handsome young woman. I shall go even further to say that, despite your efforts to minimise it, I find the family resemblance quite striking.”
He wished he possessed the easy humour of his cousin Fitzwilliam so he could cleverly remark upon her inadvertent admission that she found him pleasant and handsome as well, but he did not. Instead, he was forced to simply smile and nod. Then reflect. Then carefully study her face once more. Was it an inadvertent admission? How could it be? This was no young girl beside him, flattered and blinded by a man’s attentions and grown incautious in the heady atmosphere of her first night out, nor had he ever known her to speak carelessly, however pointed her observations might be. This was a woman who looked at him with challenge in her eyes, fully aware of her words and the impression they conveyed. He wanted to ask what she meant, but the question was ludicrous.
“How do you like London?” was what came out instead when he managed to tear his eyes from hers.
“Not at all.” Her good humour diminished slightly. “Tonight excepted, I have found the society in town to be infinitely more confined and unvarying than any to be found in Hertfordshire.”
“I suppose it is to be expected that you would not be much out in company when one is newly…” He bit back the word. “New. That is, when one is new in town.”
“True, true,” she said absently. “I suppose I do not much like being…new.” Taking a sip of her wine, she added, “In town. Town life…is not at all what I expected.”
She sighed, giving him the strong impression that she was saying less than she meant, meaning more than she said.
“It seems to suit you,” he blundered forward. “You look very well.”
“Mr Darcy, you once declared that you could not abide disguise of any sort. Why should you abandon that principle now for the sake of offering empty flattery?”
Something came over him, something akin to the giddiness he had felt that day at Rosings. “On the day of your sister’s wedding you offered me your hand in friendship,” he said impulsively. “I was regrettably prevented from accepting it, but I ask you—was the offer sincere?”
She stared at him, confusion in her eyes.
“Will you offer it again?”
Wordlessly she held out her hand.
A feeling almost electrical travelled up his arm as he took it, and he needed a deep breath to calm himself.
“Then please, as a friend, do me the courtesy of believing me when I tell you that you look very well indeed. You are, in fact, quite beautiful.”
She stared at him then dropped her eyes to their two hands touching.
“I am not what I was.”
“No,” he said huskily, bringing her hand to his mouth. “You are more. Much more.”
Well I do not know about you, but I for one, need to know where this story is heading!!
Thank you Gail for allowing us a snippet of your new book, it was certainly enticing! I wish you well with the rest of the Blog Tour. The Blog Tour includes an interview, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways! Details of the Blog Tour can be found at the bottom of the page.
Gail McEwen Bio
It took a few decades, but Gail finally took her English teacher’s advice and “became a writer.” It’s not that she didn’t want to be a writer – she always wanted to be a writer – she just didn’t know how to go about it. Because, truthfully, if one is going to write, one must eventually allow others to read what has been scribbled in that notebook shoved in the back of the drawer.
Gail eventually worked up enough nerve to share her efforts with the anonymous world of the internet, after that she ventured out to college classes, writing contests, and eventually found a publisher.
Gail’s newest book, Stronger Even Than Pride, is a wicked twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Depending on your measure, her success is either modest or phenomenal – while she is in no danger of growing either rich or famous, she is a published, award-winning author! Gail chooses the latter yardstick.
So it just goes to show – you should always listen to your teachers.