Thursday, 16 July 2020


Hello, readers! It’s a treat to be back at My Jane Austen Book Club to kick off my blog tour for my upcoming release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austenesque novel, and I have to say, I think it is my favorite one yet!

Like Elizabeth Bennet, I enjoy human folly, and there is plenty of it to be had in Madness, which is a mischievous twist on the Groundhog Day trope. The day being relived takes us through Elizabeth’s meeting with Mr. Wickham in Meryton, and his accusations about Mr. Darcy that evening, but as the day continues repeating, it begins to vary widely and with shocking results.

I will be sharing an excerpt with every post on my blog tour, and today’s except features an idea of my own invention, that the Bennet sisters’ first encounter with Mr. Wickham in set during Meryton’s monthly market day. This scene is set at the market about a week into Elizabeth’s redundant loop, at a time when she is chiefly fixated on promoting the attachment between Jane and Mr. Bingley, though the seemingly endless repetition has made her reckless and rash….


Elizabeth was strangely amused to find that Mr. Darcy had again accompanied Mr. Bingley to the market. Elizabeth was reticent this morning, but the rest of her family was not, and Mr. Bingley was soon overcome by Mrs. Bennet’s effusions, echoed by Kitty and Lydia, though they soon announced their intention to go off in search of the officers.

Mr. Collins finally left Elizabeth’s side to put himself forward, and though his first greeting to Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy was courteous enough, he went on at some length, until it was surely impossible for either gentleman to consider him a sensible man. 

“I understand Netherfield is much grander than Longbourn,” he began, and then glanced back at the ladies, making a strange and servile gesture. “Of course, I have some reason to be partial to Longbourn, and my fondness for the place daily increases! But my own humble parsonage in Kent is so near the illustrious estate of Rosings Park, where I am a frequent guest - I have come to make a study of great houses, and happily enough as a clergyman I am quite comfortable in such settings, for it is my firm belief….”

Elizabeth could listen no further, though Mr. Bingley was too amiable to do otherwise. She noticed Mr. Darcy had betrayed no reaction to Mr. Collins’ mention of Rosings, though she knew Lady Catherine to be Mr. Darcy’s aunt. He likely had no wish to invite any further notice from the toady parson, and Elizabeth could hardly begrudge him such a sentiment - but she had not ruled out the possibility of mentioning the connection to Mr. Collins later, if it suited her purposes. Or if Mr. Darcy vexed her.

At present, she had borne quite enough mortification for one morning, and she wished to be away from her family. She remained resolved to do her best to help Jane along with Mr. Bingley - but how odd that today, in distracting Mr. Darcy, she was beginning to behave like him; she had grown silent and taciturn. 

She said little at first as the two of them walked in the opposite direction of Jane and Mr. Bingley, and eventually Mr. Darcy broke the silence by asking after her health. 
Elizabeth flinched, for it echoed what Jane had told her of Mr. Darcy’s gracious inquiry the previous evening. But that is quite impossible! She assured him she was well, but she could hear the suspicion in her own voice, and looked away to hide what she knew must be a strange look upon her countenance.

“You nursed your elder sister so assiduously at Netherfield,” he said after a minute of silence. “It would be a great pity if your kindness were repaid by catching cold yourself.”
Of course, to Mr. Darcy, Jane’s illness had only just happened. “I am quite hale, I assure you, sir.” She glanced over at him again, feeling surprisingly at ease with Mr. Darcy, more so than she ever had before. It occurred to her that perhaps it was because she was so irascible herself this morning - what suitable companions they made at such a time!

She laughed to herself at a particularly impertinent notion, and though she was not inclined to share it, Mr. Darcy suddenly seemed unusually willing to converse with her. “May I ask what amuses you, Miss Bennet?”
“You may, perhaps, but it does not follow that I will answer you,” she replied. She had not spoken in jest, but he seemed to believe she had, and he actually smiled down at her. 
“I suppose I dare not hope I could have aroused such mirth. Only Miss Bingley laughs at my jokes before I have told them.”

Elizabeth gaped up at Mr. Darcy before breaking into a wide smile. “Perhaps she is clairvoyant, sir - it would be a sort of accomplishment.”
He laughed with her now, and Elizabeth felt her peevishness melting away. “What made me laugh before will do neither of us credit,” she admitted. “Besides, your jape, which was an excellent one, has already disproven my theory.”

He raised his eyebrows in a pose of exaggerated curiosity. “My jest was tolerable, perhaps, but I am very sorry I could not tempt you to be more candid with me, Miss Elizabeth. I am heartily sorry indeed.” He met her eyes with something more than mirth, and Elizabeth quickly looked away. What was the world coming to, when Mr. Darcy, of all people, was cheering her?
As if determined to sabotage any pleasant feelings toward him, Elizabeth finally decided to share her  impudent musings. “I was amused before by my own petulance,” she admitted. “It occurred to me that you often appear as surly as I felt this morning - I thought perhaps you, too, are plagued by relations who constantly disoblige you.” 

Mr. Darcy drew in a sharp breath and looked at her severely; she knew at once she had pressed him too far by insulting his family. She ought to apologize, but she supposed it would not matter tomorrow, for even if Thursday ever came, she would never have any great wish for Mr. Darcy’s approbation. 
The silence persisted a moment longer, and Elizabeth feared he might leave, and pull Mr. Bingley away from Jane. Finally, he gave a strange snort of laughter; she gasped up at him, almost wondering if she had imagined it. 
“You are very near the truth,” he said evenly. “More frequently than I can help it, I am caught by some distressing thought - I had not realized I was surly.”
It seemed odd to Elizabeth that he took no offense on behalf of his family, only himself - but neither had she expected him to laugh about Miss Bingley. “Well, this morning is certainly full of surprises,” she said. 
“Ordinarily that should be a welcome relief,” he said cryptically. “But what surprises you?”
He had wished her to be candid - well, she would oblige him. “You have made me laugh, you seemed before to be apologizing for what you said at the assembly, though I did not know you were aware I heard you - and now you take no offense at all when I imply your family drives you to distemper as mine does for me. I feared you might resent the comparison.”
He laughed again; Elizabeth began to worry that perhaps she was truly growing a little madder with each repetition of this day. “It is not unjust, in fact. My cousin Richard is my dearest friend, but not always an ideal companion - we are very different. My aunt, Lady Catherine, can make me downright cantankerous - she has such an effect on nearly all her relations. I wonder if there is such a person in your family?”
Elizabeth was astonished by his candor, but past her own churlishness - she willingly offered him an encouraging smile. “How funny it is, that they have found one another.”
“I suppose it was fate - they are well-suited, I think. Perhaps you would agree - another surprise.” He arched an eyebrow at her in so similar a way as she had often done that Elizabeth instantly bubbled with laughter. 
“My goodness, Mr. Darcy! We are of one mind - at last.” She laughed a little more, and he looked very well pleased with himself. 
“Stranger things have happened.”
Elizabeth peered up at him. Strange things indeed. She briefly considered telling Mr. Darcy just how strange a thing had really occurred to her, several times now. Would he believe her, as Jane and Charlotte had? Or would he, like the man they had just mocked together, accuse her of blasphemy, and shun her completely? Well, there was only one way to find out. 
“I have the uncanny feeling that today will be stranger still,” she began, her lips twisting in a wry smile. “My aunt is to give a card party, where I can say with a certainty that….”
They were interrupted - Mrs. Bennet had come upon them, and was instantly fussing at Elizabeth. “There you are, Lizzy! Well! You must come at once, and join your sisters. I am sure Mr. Darcy can have nothing to say to you,” she said imperiously, “and you would get on much better with the officers.”
Elizabeth peered across the square, and, as always, she saw her sisters on the other side, speaking with great animation to a cluster of soldiers. Mr. Wickham was already amongst them, clearly working his charms on Lydia. Mrs. Bennet fluttered her handkerchief in that direction, and he looked up as it caught his eye; noticing Elizabeth, he smiled and gave a nod of his head before turning back to his companions.
Mr. Darcy laid his hand atop Elizabeth’s, for she was still holding his arm, and she longed to ask what truth there was in Mr. Wickham’s tale.
“That is Mr. Wickham,” Mrs. Bennet informed them. “He is just arrived - and what a charming young man! Oh - and there go the Lucases - your aunt has invited them to the card party - come along now, Lizzy.”
She peered up at Mr. Darcy, and some perverse impulse led her to brush her hand subtly and deliberately against his before she drew it away. He had always looked upon Mr. Wickham with disdain, but this time Elizabeth wondered if there was more in it. 
Now he looked back at her, again with some indiscernible feeling. “I shall bid you good day, then,” he said softly. 
Elizabeth began to follow her mother, but stopped after a couple of steps. She turned back to Mr. Darcy. “The card party - I hope I will see you there, sir. My Aunt Phillips would be delighted if you and Mr. Bingley would attend.”
Mr. Darcy nodded, wearing the trace of a smile. “Thank you. Miss Bennet. I will mention it to Bingley - I foresee no objection on his part.”
She watched him go, but her mother was ushering her forward. “Well, Lizzy, I suppose it was clever of you to think of Jane, just now! Very good of you!”
Elizabeth could barely look at her mother, after the quarrel they had had the day before - but her mother knew nothing of it today. “Thank you, Mamma,” she muttered.
“And am I not to be thanked in turn, for rescuing you from that odious Mr. Darcy? What you must have been suffering, my poor girl! I see Jane is walking with Mr. Bingley, so that is very well. But after what that awful man said about you, I could not bear you to be so miserable, and miss out on seeing the officers!”
Elizabeth chewed her lip for a moment, and then made some little assurance of her gratitude, for her mother seemed still to expect it. “Very timely of you,” Elizabeth said. “I am sure I was on the verge of saying something Mr. Darcy would have thought very foolish indeed.”


About the Book

Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, and two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their quarrelsome younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and their tedious cousin, Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.
That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card Ma charming Mr. Wickham reveals to Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.
The next day, the same thing happens again.

And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in a effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.
As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….
Elizabeth Bennet must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.



Vesper said...

You think that even Mrs Bennet would realise that men of the militia couldn't afford to marry

Glynis said...

I read some chapters as they were posting and really enjoyed them. I love how Darcy and Elizabeth were getting on so well in this excerpt, it’s such a shame that Mrs Bennet had to interrupt them, and especially just to talk to Wickham! I’m looking forward to reading this so will add it to my list!
I’m assuming this is a Rafflecopter giveaway so I won’t enter thank you.

dstoutholcomb said...

sounds like an interesting story

KateB said...

I’ll looking forward to reading it, great except

Patty said...

Loved the excerpt. Congratulations on this newest release.

The flirting between Darcy and Elizabeth was adorable.

Buturot said...

Thank you for the excerpt. This EB/FD amicability is delightful. Interesting story, I wonder if at this time, how many times it had already occurred.

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