I am delighted to be in the premiere en bas for The Muse blog Tour! Welcome to the first stop on The Muse Blog Tour kindly brought to you by Leatherbound reviews in conjunction with Meryton Press.
Jessica Evans is sharing an except of her début book The Muse, an extraordinary concept for a modern JAFF. The excerpt has left me curious and I am eager to read how the author will transcend my idea of Regency Darcy by exchanging breeches for tights!
Elizabeth Bennet, the newest corps de ballet dancer at Ballet Theater of New York, dreams of rising through the prestigious company’s ranks to become a prima ballerina. When she’s cast in superstar choreographer William Darcy’s newest work, she believes she’s one step closer to realizing her dream–until she meets him.
William Darcy, the former dance legend and ballet bad boy, is a jaded perfectionist who dancers both fear and admire. Although touted as the next big thing in the ballet world, he secretly battles a bad case of artist’s block–until he meets Elizabeth Bennet.
Tempers ignite between Elizabeth and Darcy, but he’s irresistibly drawn to the stubborn and beautiful corps de ballet dancer. Could she be the muse he needs to reignite his passion for ballet?
This is the opening scene of The Muse.
A dancer’s life is a series of small routines. The same exercises in the same order: pliés, tendus, battement jetés. Bandages wrapped around the same toes, the ones that, despite dime-sized calluses, always rub and blister by afternoon rehearsals. The same faces in company class, the same bodies with their minute variations. The same schedule: company class, rehearsal, performance. Repeat. The programs may change, the casts may change, the audiences may change, but the routines endure.
That morning, however, was different. That morning the dancers of Ballet Theater of New York walked into the studio fresh and alive. They danced the first exercise, pliés, with the grace of Swan Lake. Legs sliced crisply through during tendus and jetés. By rond de jambes, sweat beads trickled down foreheads and fell in droplets to the floor. A man sat at the front of the studio, arms folded across his chest, blankly looking out at the company of dancers. Every so often, he glanced down, scribbled in a notebook with a thin black and gold pen, and then looked up, expressionless.
He was William Darcy, the Ballet Theater legend, the one in the company’s old promotional poster hanging in the lobby downstairs. William Darcy, back at the company in a new capacity: to create dance.
He was casting for his new work. This class was his audition. All of the dancers knew it. All of them wanted a part in his next piece, the one the critics were already buzzing about, the one that had yet to be choreographed.
Class proceeded uneventfully. Darcy remained stoic at his seat in the front, scribbling notes to himself. Many of the dancers tried to catch his eye during reverance, but he refused to acknowledge them. When class ended, he stood and nodded curtly to the ballet mistress and the dancers, and then he strode out of the studio.
Many of the dancers grabbed water bottles and the discarded remains of their warm-up clothes. Some stayed in the studio to stretch, Elizabeth Bennet among them. She splayed out in a small group of corps de ballet dancers which included her sister, Jane.
Jane exhaled as she stretched out her calf. “So what did you think of Darcy?”
“Scary,” replied Elizabeth. “Did you see his face during class? He could be one of those human statues that perform for the tourists in Times Square. He didn’t blink once throughout adagio. I watched him the whole time.”
“He was hot,” said Charlotte Louis, jumping in place to break in a new pair of pointe shoes. A tall, lithe dancer with ebony skin and sharp cheekbones, Charlotte had entered Ballet Theater that year like Elizabeth, although she had danced for three years previously at Atlanta Ballet.
“What rehearsals do you have this afternoon, Lizzy?” Jane asked.
“Just Act II of Swan Lake.” Being a new member of the company, Elizabeth was rarely cast in ballets. She performed at least every other night.
“Cheer up,” Jane said, patting her sister’s leg. “It takes a while.”
“Easy for you to say.”
Jane furrowed her eyebrows but didn’t reply. Long-limbed, blonde, and graceful, Jane seemed poised to rise up the company ranks. She’d been in Ballet Theater for a little over five years since graduating high school, and she’d become a casting favorite of Charles Bingley, the company’s Assistant Artistic Director. In the last few months, she’d also become his girlfriend. Lately, Jane had begun dancing soloist roles, although many wondered whether this was due to the burgeoning romance between the two.
Sighing, Elizabeth plopped to the floor. “I desperately want to be in Darcy’s piece.”
Just then, another dancer, Lydia Lopez, leaned over to their group and interjected, “I’ve heard he’s an asshole but a brilliant asshole. Did you see his last piece at San Francisco? It was beautiful. If he doesn’t cast me, I’ll die.”
“I just want to stare at him for a few hours every few days,” Charlotte joked. “Asshole or not, the man is hot.”
“I’m having déjà vu,” Elizabeth joked.
“Shut up,” replied Charlotte, poking her friend. “He’s hot. It’s a fact.”
Elizabeth winked. “Worth repeating over and over and over again.”
A few other corps dancers giggled.
“Do you want to eat lunch or what?” Jane asked as she stood. She extended her hand to her sister and hauled her up.
“Lead the way,” Elizabeth replied. “Charlotte?”
Grabbing the remainder of their things, they hurried down into the locker room to grab protein bars, yogurts, and baby carrot sticks before afternoon rehearsals.
Thank you Jessica for sharing this excerpt it certainly has my attention. The premise is unusual and I am sure it will make for a very interesting read. Good luck on your début, I look forward to reading more about this book throughout the tour!
Jessica Evans cut her writer’s teeth in various fan fiction forums starting at fifteen. Although she discovered Jane Austen’s novels as a college sophomore, she didn’t begin writing Austenesque until several years later. The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation is her debut novel.
Jessica teaches sixth grade English in New York City. In her spare time, she reads a lot of Young Adult literature, and cooks and eats as healthily as possible. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
The Muse Blog Tour Schedule!
12/1: Excerpt at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
12/2: Review at Songs & Stories
12/3: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
12/4: Review at Wings of Paper
12/5: Excerpt & Giveaway at Laughing with Lizzie
12/6: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
12/7: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
12/8: Excerpt & Giveaway at Stories From the Past
12/9: Review at So Little Time...
12/10: Review at BestSellers & BestStellars
12/11: Author Interview at Wings of Paper
12/12: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
12/13: Review at Fairy Jane Tales
12/14: Excerpt at The Calico Critic
12/15: Review at Warmisunqu's Austen
As always please feel free to share your thoughts on this interesting concept!