Thank you so much for having me, Laura! I’m thrilled to introduce my new novel, The Madness of Mr. Darcy. The book is based on the premise that Lydia Bennet never married George Wickham, destroying the entire happy ending of Pride & Prejudice. Twenty hard years have passed when Mr. Darcy, beaten down by tragedy, seeks admission into a private madhouse for the genteel. What he doesn’t know is that his long-lost love is employed as the matron of the facility. The following excerpt is from the beginning of chapter eight, and it is the first time, excepting the prologue, that the reader encounters Elizabeth.
Excerpt from The Madness of Mr. Darcy
by Alexa Adams“Welcome home, Dr. Wilson. You have been greatly missed.”
The doctor beamed on the scene before him: the snug parlor that he used as his office and the matron of Ramsey House, smiling her greeting. “Mrs. Bennet! It is good to be back. No trouble since your last letter, I presume?”
“None at all, sir, unless you count Miss Higgins tearing her new dress in despair, which I do not.”
He laughed. “I am sure the tearing of the dress was not nearly so disruptive as the lament for its loss.”
“Not at all! The damage was not irreparable, and the exertion of mending it has been excellent therapy.”
A frown creased his brow. “You made sure she was constantly supervised while using the needle, of course.”
“I did it myself, sir. The stock of needles was subject to the same daily tallies we utilize for the knives during the course of the experiment, and none have gone awry.”
“Touché, Mrs. Bennet! I would put any swordsman up against your needle.” He surveyed her speculatively. “I will wish to interview Lady Elliot to assess the benefits of your ‘experiment’ as you term it. It is rather suspicious that you had opportunity to attempt it, Mrs. Bennet, when I was not here to say no.”
She smiled, only slightly. “I cannot be held responsible for Lady Elliot’s mood fluctuations, sir.”
He chuckled. “How very convenient for you! What is done is done, but let us not be handing out needlework willy-nilly until I have examined Lady Elliot. Is that understood, Mrs. Bennet?”
“Perfectly, Dr. Wilson.”
“Good! How is Mr. Lotts progressing?”
“He has gained in both weight and stamina. Mr. Johnson is with him now. He will join us shortly with the most recent figures.”
“Excellent! I hope to see a notable improvement in him, for we shall have a gentleman joining us soon for whom he might be held up to as an example. Mr. Darcy is far more likely to be a willing participant with a concrete example of efficaciousness before him. Never have I received such a grueling from a potential guest. He wanted detailed accounts of the daily routine and therapies. Whatever else might be said for the man, his intellect is as sharp as ever.”
“Yes. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. We shall have to move Lady Elliot to different quarters, I am sorry to say, but we shall require the front rooms for his lodging. No other will accommodate his valet, whom he insists must remain with him in an adjoining room. He also brings a maid, but she can be housed with all the others. You will see to the arrangements.”
“Of course, Dr. Wilson, but can we not find some other solution for Mr. Darcy? I fear Lady Elliot will not benefit from the disruption.”
“Nor do I, but I can come up with no better plan. Think on it, Mrs. Bennet, to see if you might contrive something better, but if you do not, we shall have to begin Lady Elliot’s relocation. Much better to get it over with as soon as possible, so that any resentment she might harbor towards our new guest has the opportunity to fizzle out before he arrives.”
She swallowed painfully. “And when do we expect Mr. Darcy?”
“He intends to arrive the morning of September 12th, and from what I know of the man, regardless of any neglect he has shown to other matters, he will be punctual in his arrival.”
“I should not doubt it.”
Dr. Wilson raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Is he known to you?”
“Yes. I mean, no, sir, not personally, but I have heard him to be punctilious.”
“He showed some recognition when I mentioned your name, Mrs. Bennet.”
“Yes. Said he was once acquainted with a family of the name. Might it have been yours?”
“We did meet very briefly, I suppose, many years ago in Hertfordshire. He was a guest at a neighboring estate.”
“Is your prior association likely to cause any trouble, Mrs. Bennet? I would hate to disappoint the man’s family, as I am truly indebted to them, but if Mr. Darcy’s presence is likely to cause any disruption to the House as a whole, I must do so.”
“No, sir. That will not be necessary. It was, as I said, an extremely brief encounter, so much so I am rather amazed he could recall it, but it was enough to make me think well of him, and if he is in need of our help, I shall not be the one to allow scruples to stand in the way of his recovery. He is melancholic, I presume?”
“Yes. Chronically, I believe, and he has aggravated the situation with alcohol.”
“Far too common an occurrence to be a surprise to you, sir.”
“True, but it does make our task harder, does it not, Mrs. Bennet?” There was a knock at the door, and a young man of broad build looked into the room.
“Dr. Wilson! So glad to have you home, sir!”
“Hello, Mr. Johnson! I understand you come from therapy with Mr. Lotts. How does he get on?”
“Quite well, sir. I think you will be very pleased with the latest figures.”
“If you will excuse me, gentlemen,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, “but I must rejoin the guests.”
“Very well, Mrs. Bennet. We shall speak more following dinner.” The two men turned their heads to the lengthy chart Mr. Johnson bore with him, and Elizabeth Bennet made a thankful escape from the unusually oppressive room.
Mr. Darcy! After all these years! What on earth will he think of me?
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About the Author
A lover of Jane Austen since her childhood, Alexa Adams is the author of Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice: First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley. Her latest book is The Madness of Mr. Darcy, which was released in October. Her Twisted Austen novellas - Emma & Elton and Jane & Bingley - are available for free download on Goodreads. Residing in the Delaware Valley with her husband and daughter, Adams looks forward to continuing her engagement with Austen and the remarkably familiar characters she has bequeathed to this world.
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