Authors: Katie Oliver
When your name is Lizzy Bennet and Mr Darcy lives next door, romance is anything but simple…
Especially since a film crew has just arrived to shoot
Pride and Prejudice
at the Darcy estate! And when Hugh Darcy, the one who got away, arrives home after 8 years absence, Lizzy can’t help but think it’s fate. Until, that is, he introduces her to Holly – his fiancée…
What can Lizzy do but try not to feel
prejudiced against Hugh’s new woman – a city girl who knows nothing about country life, and seems more concerned with her film star ex than her current fiancé?
There’s no denying that there’s something suspicious about Holly’s interest in Hugh…and when he begins to have doubts about his high-maintenance fiancée, it seems a break up is on the cards. But is it too late for Lizzy to swallow her pride and get her Austen ending after all?
The ‘Dating Mr Darcy’ trilogy:
Prada and Prejudice
Love and Liability
The ‘Marrying Mr Darcy’ series:
And the Bride Wore Prada
Love, Lies and Louboutins
Manolos in Manhattan
What Would Lizzy Bennet Do?
The Jane Austen Factor
loves romantic comedies, characters who ‘meet cute’, Richard Curtis films, and Prosecco (not necessarily in that order). She currently resides in South Florida with her husband, two parakeets, and a dog.
Katie has been writing since she was eight, and has a box crammed with (mostly unfinished) novels to prove it. With her sons grown and gone, she decided to get serious and write more (and hopefully better) stories. She even finishes most of them.
So if you like a bit of comedy with your romance, please visit Katie’s website, www.katieoliver.com, and have a look.
Here’s to love and all its complications…
Thank you to the wonderful team at Carina UK for giving me the courage – and the audacity – to attempt to put a fresh spin on Jane Austen’s beloved novel,
Pride and Prejudice
. Warm thanks to my editor, Clio Cornish, for turning my rough draft into a polished book – you’re always, always right, about everything. Thanks as well to Anne Hudson, my tireless and eagle-eyed copy editor. And to my fabulous agent, Nikki Terpilowski – thank you for being the first to believe in me, and for helping me realise my long-held dream of becoming a writer.
And lastly, a special thank you to my husband Mark for making it possible for me to write. You gave me the gift of time, and quiet, and your unstinting (and unending) love and encouragement.
Thank you, one and all.
This book is for all of my wonderful readers - those who’ve read my books before, and those who’ve only just found me. Thank you!
And for all of the dedicated Jane Austen fans out there…this one is for you, as well. I do hope you like it.
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
—Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
‘You have bewitched and bewildered me, Miss Bennet. From the moment we met I’ve thought of nothing, of no one, but you. Only say you’ll put an end to my very great unhappiness and marry me.’
Elizabeth stood motionless on the terrace as rain fell on her face, and regarded Fitzwilliam Darcy with luminous eyes. ‘I scarcely know what to say in reply, Mr Darcy.’
‘Of course you must say “yes”,’ he said quietly, ‘only “yes”, Miss Bennet, which single word shall make me the happiest man in all of Derbyshire.’
She lifted her face to his and reached out to touch his cheek. ‘Yes,’ she whispered, laughing as she flung herself into his arms. ‘Yes, a thousand times, yes! Of course I shall marry you, Mr Darcy.’
‘And… CUT!’ the director called out. ‘Thank you, everyone. Ten minutes, please.’
‘Someone bring me a towel!’ Cara Winslow, the actress portraying Miss Bennet, bellowed. ‘I’m bloody freezing.’ As if to underscore the point, she shivered in her thin muslin gown – hand-stitched by the costume designer, and plastered now by the fake rain to her body – and crossed her arms against her chest.
As the rain machine was switched off and the actors drifted from the set to dry off, Lizzy caught the arm of the young man beside her and turned to him in excitement. ‘Thanks for letting me come and watch the filming, Harry. It’s brilliant, isn’t it?’ Her eyes swept over the rose-bordered terrace to the cables and lights and sound booms cluttering the surrounding lawn.
‘Brill,’ he agreed, his words dry. ‘If you don’t mind tripping over cables and living with this lot every day for months on end.’
‘Well, you can’t have everything,’ she pointed out. Unlike his more serious older brother, Hugh Darcy, Harry – with his reddish-blond, almost-but-not-quite-ginger hair and wide smile – loved a good time more than anything and always managed to make her snort with laughter, usually at the most inopportune times.
Of course, without the worry of inheriting Cleremont, his family’s ginormous 150-room estate, Harry Darcy could afford to be carefree.
‘They’ve taken a few liberties with the dialogue,’ she observed. She lowered her voice. ‘And Cara Winslow’s a bit of a diva, isn’t she?’
‘A diva?’ Harry snorted. ‘That’s not what the cast and crew call her.’
‘Oh? What do they call her?’
‘Never mind. I wouldn’t want to sully your delicate ears. Suffice it to say, this is Cara’s first starring role, and it’s gone straight to her head.’
Lizzy returned her attention to the set. ‘Still – it’s amazing to watch, isn’t it? Like seeing Elizabeth and Mr Darcy from
Pride and Prejudice
come to life before your very eyes.’
‘Too right,’ Harry agreed. ‘It’s funny, isn’t it – you’re a Bennet, and I’m a Darcy.’ He grinned. ‘No Fitzwilliam Darcy tendencies here, though. Sorry.’
‘That’s probably a good thing,’ Lizzy said. ‘After all,
Mr Darcy was a bit of an ass, at least in the beginning.’
‘Well, if it’s judginess and snobbery you’re after, my brother’s your man.’
‘Hugh’s not a snob,’ she protested. ‘He’s… refined, and expects a certain type of behaviour. He sets the bar very high.’
‘Too high, if you ask me.’ Harry shrugged. ‘No one can live up to his impossible standards. Although mum’s even worse,’ he admitted. ‘Still – for all of his good points, Hugh can be a real tight-arse sometimes.’
‘It’s hard to believe you’re brothers,’ Lizzy agreed, and grinned. ‘You’re much more fun.’
Her thoughts drifted, as they often did, to Hugh Darcy. Like his namesake, Hugh wasn’t an easy man to know. His aloof manner and reserve marked him – unfairly – as a snob. The fact that he was also a barrister, and in line to be the Twelfth Earl of Darcy, did little to mitigate the rather forbidding first impression he made.
Now, with the filming of
Pride and Prejudice
at Cleremont, and costumed actors bringing Elizabeth and Darcy’s story to life, Lizzy couldn’t help but get caught up in excitement.
Her fingers tightened on Harry’s arm. ‘Look… over there! Isn’t it… it is! It’s Ciaran Duncan.’
He followed her gaze to a man in breeches and boots who lounged back in a canvas chair, long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles before him, studying a script.
‘Yes.’ Disapproval was plain on Harry’s face. ‘He’s playing Wickham. Perfect casting, that.’
‘What do you mean?’
Before he could elaborate, his mother approached, a mobile phone in her hand.
‘Harry, darling, you’ll never guess the news I’ve just had.’
‘In that case,’ he said with a slight smile, ‘there’s no use my guessing, is there?’
‘None at all.’ She turned to Lizzy with a polite smile. ‘Hello, Elizabeth. How is your father getting on?’
‘Very well, thank you, Lady Darcy. I brought some scones he baked this morning. Blueberry,’ she added.
‘Lovely,’ Harry’s mother murmured. ‘The vicar’s baked goods are always such a welcome… surprise.’
Lizzy suppressed a smile. That was Lady D’s polite way of saying that the lumpy, misshapen creations her father termed ‘muffins’, ‘breads’, ‘scones’ and ‘cakes’ – well intentioned though they might be – were usually inedible.
She turned back to her youngest son. ‘I’ve just had a text. Your brother’s coming home next week for a visit.’
‘What? Hugh’s coming home?’ Surprise flickered on his face. ‘I thought he was stuck in Hare Court, locked away in chambers for the entire summer.’
‘Not this time,’ his mother said with satisfaction. ‘He says he’ll be home for at least a month, and…’ – she paused for effect – ‘… he has an announcement to make.’
Lizzy scarcely heard another word Lady Darcy said; her happiness was too great.
Hugh Darcy was coming home.
She remembered how kind he’d been in the aftermath of her mother’s death. Although Mrs Bennet’s demise was not unexpected, after the cancer claimed her it nevertheless left her husband and daughters desolate and all but inconsolable with grief.
‘You must always think of Cleremont as your home,’ Hugh had told Lizzy as he took her, numb and reeling with anguish, into his arms. ‘We’ll always be here for you.’
Her sixteen-year-old heart had been comforted by his arms around her and the knowledge that, so long as the Darcy family lived next door, she need never feel alone. And somehow, mixed up in his words of reassurance and comfort, Lizzy found something more than solace…
…she found a deep and abiding love for Hugh.
Like Elizabeth Bennet, Lizzy had lost her heart to the Darcy heir. She’d harboured a secret hope that her own life would follow the fiction, and that someday she might become Hugh’s wife.
Hard to believe eight years had gone by since then.
In that time, she’d finished school and gone on to university; lost her virginity to a boy she thought she loved who, unfortunately (or luckily, perhaps) didn’t return her feelings; and got herself a job as a slush pile reader with a publishing house in Clerkenwell.
And although Lizzy and Hugh kept in sporadic touch through email and texts, life too often got in the way. She loved her job at Aphrodite Books. The company was laughably small, publishing mostly out-of-print and forgotten material, but it acquired a certain bijoux cachet, and it became Lizzy’s job to sort through the unsolicited manuscripts to find the ‘jewels in the slush’.