Thank you for having me as a guest, Maria Grazia! In some ways, Darcy and Deception was one of my most challenging books to write. I started it nearly two years ago and then set it aside when the plot wasn’t working out, but I kept thinking about. This summer I figured out how to solve the biggest problem plaguing the story and recently finished it.
I didn’t plan to write two Napoleonic War spy stories this year (the other is TheUnforgettable Mr. Darcy), but that’s how it worked out. Fortunately, the research for one benefitted the other. Despite the similarity of the espionage theme; however, the two books are quite different—with Darcy and Deception ending up as more of a mystery story. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below!
Returning home from Kent, Elizabeth Bennet is still distressed over Mr. Darcy’s insulting marriage proposal. However, her attention is diverted by the local militia commander who asks her to observe Wickham, now suspected of being a French spy. Pretending to be besotted with Wickham, Elizabeth accompanies the regiment when they relocate to Brighton.
Darcy arrives at Longbourn with the intention of making amends to Elizabeth, only to discover that she is now at Brighton with Wickham. Desperate to save her from the scoundrel, Darcy follows her to the seaside, where he hopes to woo her away from the other man.
Deception piles on top of deception as Elizabeth attempts to carry out her mission without betraying confidences—or breaking Darcy’s heart. However, the French plot runs deeper than she knows; soon she and Darcy are plunged into the confusing and dangerous world of international espionage. Can Darcy and Elizabeth escape with their lives and their love intact?
Read an excerpt
The most notable feature of Longbourn’s drawing room was the absence of one Elizabeth Bennet. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Bennet had risen and granted Bingley an effusive welcome while Jane Bennet granted him a shy smile that boded well for the man’s future chances at matrimonial bliss. Two of the younger sisters were also present.
Mrs. Bennet’s welcome to Darcy was far less enthusiastic; he might have been tempted to call it curt. Whatever other faults one might lay at her door, she was not prone to forgetfulness—particularly when it came to perceived slights. Darcy’s fortune would not restrain her dislike of him. He grudgingly admired someone who adhered so closely to her “principles” despite the social and monetary advantages Darcy’s friendship could convey.
Bingley sat beside Miss Bennet while Darcy chose a chair as far from Mrs. Bennet as possible, near the window and beside Mary Bennet, who barely peered up from her book of sermons long enough to acknowledge the visitors’ arrival. He believed the other daughter was Kitty, which meant the youngest, Lydia, was absent along with Elizabeth.
After a few minutes of desultory conversation, Darcy’s relief at not immediately encountering Elizabeth gave way to concern. Where was she? Was she lurking upstairs, having refused to see him? Was she ill? Darcy longed to inquire but feared any questions might draw attention to his interest in Elizabeth.
Of course, she and Lydia might be visiting friends or buying ribbons in Meryton. Taking a sip of tea, Darcy hoped to soothe his nervous stomach. There was absolutely no reason to fret. Her absence is a boon, he reminded himself, yet the lack of Elizabeth gnawed on his nerves.
The conversation had turned from the state of the roads to the unusual warmth of the weather. When Mrs. Bennet launched into a detailed description of her friends’ various health complaints, Darcy allowed his attention to wander. His gaze frequently drifted to the window in the hopes of spying Elizabeth on the road.
“—since Lydia and Lizzy are away—”
“I beg your pardon?” Darcy said.
Mrs. Bennet blinked; Darcy had interrupted rather suddenly. “Where did you say El—your other daughters are at present?”
Mrs. Bennet sniffed. “I did not say, but they are gone to Brighton with Colonel Forster’s regiment. Lydia is a particular friend of Mrs. Forster’s—and such a favorite with all the officers!” she crowed. “And Lizzy has gone to keep her sister company,” she added as an afterthought.
Recalling Miss Lydia’s behavior, Darcy concluded that Elizabeth’s purpose was to prevent her sister from shaming the family. Regardless, she was not at Longbourn.
Darcy set his teacup down on the saucer so forcefully it clanged, causing everyone to glance in his direction. Devil take it! Not only was Elizabeth gone, but she was at Brighton surrounded by hundreds of lonely soldiers. Of course, he had not expected anything of a romantic nature to occur, but he had thought to catch a glimpse of her.
Darcy grasped the arms of his chair, resisting the impulse to leap to his feet and demand a horse for Brighton at once. He had no reason for visiting the seaside resort, and Elizabeth would not be pleased to see him there.
Bingley’s face held great sympathy. I hope my distress is not so obvious to the others.
Mrs. Bennet was still rattling on about Brighton. “Lizzy is not quite so popular with all the officers, but one of them has taken a fancy to her.” She gave Darcy a meaningful glare. With a stab of panic, he realized she meant Wickham. But surely Elizabeth was immune from Wickham’s charms after reading Darcy’s letter at Hunsford.