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I’m delighted to help Robin Helm celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, More to Love, which is certainly a different take on Austen’s novel. I hope you all are as excited as I am to read this book, and that the excerpt Robin is sharing today makes you even more excited!

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Early October, 1811

The second eldest Bennet sister sat alone, trying to smile as she watched the couples dancing gracefully around the floor. Occasionally, she nibbled at the cookie she held, taking comfort in the richness of the sweet almond confection. As Elizabeth was a great favourite of Longbourn’s housekeeper and pastry cook, Mrs. Bailey, she was never without several of the tasty morsels in her reticule. Mrs. Bailey, who had learned the recipes for several types of cookies while a young woman in America, kept Elizabeth well-supplied.

Knowing her mother would disapprove of her eating while she waited for an invitation to dance, Elizabeth practiced her usual ruse. She hid the jumble in her embroidered handkerchief, careful to let no one see it. In any case, she was rarely asked to dance, cookie or not, as there were always more ladies than gentlemen at Meryton’s Assemblies. This night had been no exception. She had danced only one set, and that with Joshua Lucas, a friend since childhood.

Her sister Jane’s amiable partner for an earlier dance, Mr. Bingley, stood fairly close to Elizabeth, chatting with a handsome, austere man. Mr. Bingley’s voice carried over the music and gaiety, impossible to ignore.

“Darcy! Why are you standing here with your arms folded when there are so many uncommonly pretty girls lacking dance partners? You should not keep yourself apart from the company in such a stupid manner when lovely young women are seated and gentlemen are scarce. ’Tis rudeness itself. I must have you dance.”

“I certainly shall not,” answered the gentleman, drawing himself up to his full, intimidating height, looking down his nose at his friend. “You have been dancing with the only handsome girl in the room, and your sisters are engaged at present.”

Bingley’s voice softened. “She is an angel, is she not? The most beautiful creature I ever beheld.” He sighed. “However, there are plenty of suitable young ladies who are available.”

Elizabeth smiled upon hearing his praise of her sister. Mr. Bingley’s pleasant manner and good sense caused him to rise several notches in her estimation.

The young man continued, “Look! There is her sister, and she has a very pretty face, too. I daresay she is most agreeable. You must ask her to dance. Allow me to ask my partner to introduce you.”

The young lady felt the weight of the gentleman’s disapproving stare and glanced away, but she could not avoid hearing his reply.

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but there is rather too much of her to tempt me. Return to Miss Bennet and bask in her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Elizabeth’s eyes filled with unshed tears as she crushed the cookie hidden in her handkerchief. While she had never been obsessed with her looks in the way her younger sisters were, she always took pride in her appearance. Her father had often complimented her beautiful skin and her lustrous, thick hair, while her mother made certain her bonnets and dresses were stylish.

Even so, she grudgingly acknowledged to herself that she had been avoiding mirrors for at least two years now, and lately, her gowns had become uncomfortably snug.

True or not, his comments wounded her deeply. Though she was well-known for her intelligence and quick wit, she yearned to be told she was altogether lovely. She had many friends, but she feared that being bright and cheerful with a pretty face described a governess or a lady’s companion, and she did not aspire to either of those vocations.

Secretly, Elizabeth wished to be the wife of a gentleman who adored her, as well as a mother to children she would love with all her considerable depth of heart, regardless of their outward features. She prided herself on valuing the characters of her friends and relatives rather than their physical attributes.

To be judged so harshly by a person she had never met was disconcerting. Her view of the world and her place in it was shaken.

In the moment the haughty gentleman had declared her to be “too much,” she had become, to herself, “not enough.” Not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not tempting enough.

Mr. Bingley, sweet man, would not agree with his friend. “How can you say that, Darcy? She has a perfect complexion, beautiful eyes, and dainty hands which are lovely. Her entire face is alight when she smiles, and I have also observed how graceful she is when she walks. Surely you have noticed that.”

Darcy snorted. “I have. Who could miss it? She approaches the refreshment table every half hour, and she is sorely mistaken if she thinks her handkerchief hides what she is constantly eating. Bingley, I am not in humour to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men, especially when that slighting is so obviously justified in this case by the lady’s lack of discipline.”

His companion rather testily replied, “I would not be as fastidious as you for a kingdom. You are determined to be disagreeable, so I will leave you to it. Furthermore, I shall dare your disapproval and ask her myself.”

Elizabeth hardly ever allowed herself to dislike people to whom she had never been introduced, but she was willing to make an exception for tall, dark, brooding Mr. Darcy. Upon further reflection, she was somewhat surprised to realize she truly despised him, despite his arresting beauty and aristocratic profile. She had never formally met the gentleman, yet she could barely stand the sight of him. Odd, for she was generally accepting of everyone.

Seeing Mr. Bingley approaching her, she stuffed the handkerchief into her reticule and placed it under her chair. Her determined attempt at a pleasant countenance was successful.

A moment later, Mr. Bingley appeared before her, bowed, and extended his hand with a smile and a request.

Elizabeth stood and placed her hand in his, determined not to disgrace herself. She held her head high and fixed a smile upon her face, allowing her brilliant, green eyes to sparkle with mischief as he escorted her past Mr. Darcy onto the dance floor.

As she and Mr. Bingley moved through the steps, she glimpsed Mr. Darcy watching them several times, his dark eyes fixed upon her, an inscrutable expression on his striking face.

Assuming that he looked at her only to find fault, her active mind formed a scheme, and she could hardly wait to set it in motion.

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About More to Love

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but there is rather too much of her to tempt me.”

Overhearing Mr. Darcy’s rude dismissal of her shocks and mortifies Elizabeth Bennet to the core.

She is living her worst fear, and it galvanizes her into action.
oon, the gentleman cannot keep his eyes from her, but can she forgive his thoughtless judgment of her appearance and character?

Especially since he faces a worthy competitor for her attention?

Who will win the lady’s hand, along with the right to love her through thick or thin?

Check out More to Love on Amazon

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Giveaway

If that excerpt grabbed your attention, then you’ll be thrilled that Robin is generously giving away an ebook copy of More to Love to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveway will be open through Thursday, February 28, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Robin, for treating us to a peek of More to Love. Congratulations on your new release!

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