Thursday, 14 March 2019

INSPIRATION BLOG TOUR - EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY



Maria Grace stops with us at  My Jane Austen Book Club to present her new release: Inspiration, a novella that features  Mr Darcy as an artist. For further information go on reading! Enjoy the excerpt and good luck in the giveaway contest (check the rafflecopter widget below this post)

Hello, Maria Grazia! It’s so good to visit with you again. I’m really excited to share with you my latest project, Inspiration. This has been such an unexpected project for me—starting with the plan to just write a scene, then growing to a short story, and finally ending up a novella.
Inspiration tell the story of gentleman artist Darcy and his muse who has fixated upon the one woman in the world wants nothing to do with him. I suppose my muse has been just an insistent as Darcy’s, making sure this tale got told.

Here’s a peek inside:


***

Bingley had business in London just after the ball, so he left the next day. Odd for him to be so closed lipped about his intentions; usually he was quite free with such information. But perhaps that was good as it offered Darcy a ready excuse to follow him to London.
But he could not, would not, go back to that county again. That Bennet woman was difficult enough to leave behind—not to mention her sympathies for Wickham were not to be borne. He could not risk becoming caught in her orbit. If that happened, he might never leave. Something he dare not risk.
Truly it was for the best.

***

A week after his return to London, the Hursts invited him to dine with them, Bingley and Miss Bingley. Since he was in the midst of a project, he would ordinarily have refused the offer. But there was something not quite right about the composition and a little time away might help his perspective, so he dressed and presented himself at Hurst’s townhome at the requisite date and time.
The butler led him down the finely appointed corridor—the Hursts’ taste was better than one might expect given the man’s manners—to the drawing room where Miss Bingley, and only Miss Bingley awaited him.
The back of his neck prickled and made certain the door was not closed behind him. He forced a calm expression, though he felt like a cornered rat.
“Good evening, Mr. Darcy.” She rose from the center of the white sofa and curtsied. Her pale blue silk skirts rippled and flowed with the movement, like the calm waters of a stream running in its course.

“Miss Bingley.” He sat down, choosing the chair second most distant from her—a rather uncomfortable ivory and blue bergere that was wrong for his frame in every dimension. The legs were too short, but the armrests too high. The seat cushion was too soft and the back overstuffed. In short, sitting in it was a miserable experience. But it was necessary; she was the type of woman to easily get the wrong idea and everything about the current situation suggested she very much wanted to do just that. While she was not nearly so dreadful an option as marrying his cousin, Anne, Miss Bingley was hardly a marriageable sort.
No, that was hardly true, she was exactly the marriageable sort. And that was the problem. Miss Bingley was a woman with a large dowry and excellent accomplishments who could infuse cash into a floundering estate. That sort of exchange went on all the time, with both parties walking away satisfied: the gentlemen with his estate supported, she with an entry into the gentry and all the respectability that came with it.

Exactly the sort of business arrangement he neither wanted nor needed.
“I hope you will forgive me for suggesting you arrive slightly earlier than perhaps my brothers and sister were prepared for.” She returned to her seat, folded her hands in her lap and posed, like a model sitting for a portrait.
Was that her intention? She would not be the first to try to drop hints to him. It was so difficult to tell with this woman. The backdrop of the room, neatly and elegantly decorated with just enough color to please the eye, but not so much as to be jarring, felt natural enough. Perhaps she was not hinting that he should take her likeness.
“I had hoped that I might have a few private words with you before Charles comes down.” Her gaze flickered toward the doorway.
Private words? His chest tightened. “Go on.”
“I am so worried about him. I fear he might be in grave danger of making some serious mistakes.” Her brow knit just enough to show concern, but not so much as to be unattractive.
Was that expression something she had learnt in school? It seemed like the sort of thing that might be taught, as it was hardly natural. How many times had he needed to school a model on getting just the right balance?
“What sort of error? Is he contemplating some sort of business he has not told me about?” Bingley had been rather more secretive recently.
“Not to my knowledge, but that is hardly the sort of thing that he discusses with me.” She looked down at her hands. “There are other serious mistakes that a man like him might make.”
“Such as?”
“The business of marriage.”
“Marriage? He has said nothing to me of such a thing. I am certain he would discuss such a step with me before he took it.” He would be a fool if he did not. Bingley was in no position for society to forgive him a significant social blunder—like marrying the wrong sort of woman.
“I have no doubt that he would—that he will when such a time comes. And to be clear, I do not believe that we are at that point—at least not yet. But it is possible that it could come far sooner than it should. In fact, I would like to keep from coming to that point in the near future.”
He muttered under his breath and frowned. “You will have to speak more plainly. I do not pretend to understand what you are speaking of.”
“Miss Bennet of Longbourn.”
No, no! Not that name—Bennet!
“You agree with me. I can see it on your face. I am so relieved, I cannot tell you how much.”
How dare she believe she understood what he was thinking. The addlepate knew nothing! “What are you inferring?”
“You cannot believe Charles should marry Miss Bennet.”
“I did not think he was currently contemplating marriage to anyone.”
“Charles is always contemplating marriage, I am afraid. As much as women might be accused of being overly romantic, I fear Charles is just as bad, or even worse.” She pressed her hand to her chest and sucked in a sorrowful breath.
Melodramatic overreaction. It was neither attractive nor effective.
“He is a sensible man.”
“He can be made to see sense, that I will concede.” She tipped her head toward him, eyes batting the slightest bit, like butterflies taking their rest.
Butterflies were never so calculated.
“You seem to be hinting that you want something from me.” He pinched the bridge of his nose.
“After a fashion I do. I need to beg a favor of you.”
Darcy clenched his jaw. Doing favors for women, particularly women like her was not likely to go well for him in the long run.
She leaned toward him slightly. “Pray help me to make sure that Charles stays away from Miss Bennet so there is no chance of any further attachment occurring.”
“I am not in favor of such subterfuge. Disguise is my abhorrence.” 
“I do not much like it myself, but what choice is there?”
“I believe, in these matters, it is better to be direct. Explain your concerns to him—”
She sat up very straight, her eyebrows lifting high on her forehead as her tone rose to meet them. “Explain my concerns? Surely you jest! That is the surest possible way to see that he does exactly what I am certain he should not! The mere mention of it will place the idea in the forefront of his imagination, and he will hardly think about anything else until he acts upon it.”
“You do not appear to have a high estimation of your brother.” Unfortunately though, she was right.
“You wound me. You know I think a very great deal of him. But I am also aware of his weaknesses. Think just a bit about the matter. How many times has he discovered a new ‘angel’ among an assembly or a party? You know it is very frequent. As often as he changes company, he finds a beautiful face and figure and falls enamored of her.”

Darcy rubbed his fist along his chin. She did have an excellent point.
“Who is to say that Miss Bennet is not another one of these women? You have seen how once he is out of their company, his infatuation fades, and all returns to how it had been.”
At least it had been so in every instance to date.
“Tell me, how firm an attachment could he have made to any of these girls if he forgets about them once they are out of site?” She extended her hand, inviting him to agree.
He muttered again. She did have a good point, again.
“I am quite certain that if he is attached to her, he cannot forget her, certainly not so easily as by discouraging his return to Hertfordshire.”
“I will not be disingenuous with him.”
“I am not asking you to.” She pressed her hands into the sofa beside her. “But you cannot tell me you think Miss Bennet an excellent match for him.”

He looked aside. “She has many fine qualities. He is not in need of a dowry, and her father is a gentleman.”
“I grant you that, but her family, her connections? Can you tell me they are in any way acceptable? Her mother, her youngest sisters, they are horrid! I still shudder to think of them at the ball. The mother intimating, they were nearly engaged, and the youngest girl cavorting with the officers.”
Miss Elizabeth was not—
“Can you honestly tell me that you think those are the sort of connections that will serve Charles well?”
He covered his eyes with his hand. “I can see some difficulties with that.”
“Then you will assist me?”
“I am willing to support your notion that some time apart cannot be a bad thing.” And it meant that Bingley would not be pushing him to return to Hertfordshire which would be a good thing.
“Indeed, that is all I am asking … Charles, there you are! I had wondered if you were feeling unwell!” She rose and met her brother in the doorway.

It should not have been surprising that Bingley was, at least at first, reluctant to accept the helpful suggestions offered by Miss Bingley. Only when Darcy chimed in with his support, did Bingley finally give way and agree to remain in London. Miss Bingley rejoiced in her triumph, as did Mrs. Hurst—her husband was generally too drunk to really care either way. But Bingley—his reaction was harder to read.
At first, he seemed sanguine about the notion, but soon thereafter, the melancholy began, and he became the very essence of a brown study. Perhaps, just perhaps Darcy had been mistaken.

***

Some weeks later, visit to Bingley had seemed like a good idea. A reasonable one at least. What harm was there in trying to visit his friend and perhaps cheer him up just a bit? Darcy had hoped to study Bingley again and perhaps even recant his position. Returning to Netherfield might not be the evil Caroline suggested it was if leaving it had left Bingley in such a state.
But Darcy had been wrong. Wrong about all of that.

He dashed into his own townhouse, up the stairs and locked the door of his chambers behind him. Panting, he pressed his back against the door—perhaps that would keep the tormenting spirits at bay. 
He had seen her, Miss Bennet—the wrong Miss Bennet—waiting at the door at Grosvenor Street only to be sent away by the butler, told that Miss Bingley was not at home. Her face when she had turned aside was so composed, so serene. How could she possibly actually have any fondness for Bingley when she was so untouched by being turned away at their door?
But still, there was something about the cast of her shoulders, the turn of her lips that suggested she might be more moved that she appeared at first glance. If it had been Miss Elizabeth, he would have been certain of what the expression meant. With this wrong Miss Bennet, he could only guess. And her eyes … oh how they resembled Miss Elizabeth’s.

Not so much in the delicacy of that feature, but in rough form and color. Almost as though she were a rough draft of what was to be perfected in her sister. So perfectly imperfect in Miss Elizabeth.
Her face, her figure whirled though the shadows of his imagination. His muse caught her, and twirled her, parading her around before his mind’s eye, the nymph who lived to tease and torment him in turn.

Unfortunately, Miss Bingley was right in regards to the Bennets. While Bingley could technically afford an alliance with Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth was everything a man like himself should, must, was even required to avoid.
He would respect his family and his station enough for that, his muse be damned. He would not tell Bingley of Miss Bennet’s visit, nor that she were even in London. And he certainly would never, never recommend a return to Netherfield Park.

Why was it his muse had seemed to take the notion to be “damned” far more literally than it should have? No sooner did he return to his paints, but every fragment, every thread of inspiration flew from him, as fleeting as a shadow and as easy to catch when he gave it chase.
He tried the theater, opera, reading, riding Rotten Row, even walking in any green space he found, but all creative impulse eluded him. After a fortnight, the futility of it all set in, and he retreated back to Derbyshire. If he was going to be miserable, he might as a well do it in comfortable surrounds.

***

I hope you enjoyed this peek. If you’d like more, you can find Inspiration at all major e-book sellers. If you’d like to catch up on the short stories I mentioned, you can find them at RandomBitsofFascination.com.

Thanks!

Maria Grace
Book Blurb: Inspiration

His muse desires her; she detests him. How will his soul survive?

Gentleman artist Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been able to express himself in words, but with his brushes and paints, he expressed what few men ever could. When his flighty muse abandons him, though, he finds himself staring at blank canvases in a world that has turned bland and cold and grey.

Worried for his friend, Charles Bingley invites Darcy to join him in Hertfordshire, in hopes the picturesque countryside might tempt Darcy's muse to return. The scheme works only too well. His muse returns, with a vengeance, fixated upon the one young woman in the county who utterly detests him.

Will his selfish distain for the feelings of others drive her and his muse away or can he find a way to please this woman with the power to bring color and feeling back into his world?

About the Author

Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences.

She has one husband and one grandson, earned two graduate degrees and two black belts, raised three sons, danced English Country dance for four years, is aunt to five nieces, is designing a sixth Regency costume, blogged seven years on Random Bits of Fascination, has outlines for eight novels waiting to be written, attended nine English country dance balls, and shared her life with ten cats.

Her books, fiction and nonfiction, are available at all major online booksellers.  



She can be contacted at






5 comments:

Sonja said...

OK I am a fan! Would love to read the WHOLE THING!

Ginna said...

That was a good excerpt!
I'm glad that his muse has disappeared. He definitely does not deserve to have any sort of inspiration.

darcybennett said...

Enjoyed the excerpt especially the line “Charles is always contemplating marriage I’m afraid.” So funny and true.

NovElla said...

I really love the idea for this; and the cover looks perfect!

Lúthien84 said...

I've not read this excerpt before on any of the other blogs. Thank you for sharing a wonderful excerpt from the novella, Maria.