Posts Tagged ‘play with fire’

I’m delighted to welcome J. Marie Croft back to my blog today to celebrate the release of Play with Fire, the latest in Meryton Press’ series of novellas. J. Marie is here to talk about the evolution of the novella and to share an excerpt so intriguing that I must get my hands on a copy of the book! I hope you all feel the same. Please give her a warm welcome!


The Evolution of a “Skirmish and Scandal” Novella

First of all, thank you, Anna, for participating in these blog tours. I’m thrilled to be here today and to have contributed to the Meryton Press series of novellas.

My participation came about early in July when I received an email from Janet Taylor regarding the project. Immediately I signed up and, taking a page from Mansfield Park, started writing a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story about staging a theatrical. The working title was Duel-Purpose Act. Duel that is, not dual, because in this novella there is, indeed, a prearranged contest with deadly weapons (or not) between two brainless blockheads (as a certain character calls them) in order to settle a point of honour. And, because there’s also a kiss during the theatrical, I decided a much better title would be Play with Fire.

The first part of the novella (Setting the Stage) practically wrote itself. I had to do a bit of research, though, regarding 18th century fashion. Later in this post, you’ll find an excerpt describing Darcy’s costume.

Then I realised— Uh-oh! Now I need to write a script for Part II (The Play’s the Thing). Great! I know nothing about playwriting. Down the rabbit hole I went to investigate scriptwriting.

Later in July, I was sweating (or perspiring as my mom always insisted a lady would do) and not only due to a heat wave. Gah! Whose bright idea was it to put a duel in The Mésalliance? And, because the play takes place in the 18th century, they use swords, not pistols. Wonderful! I know nothing about sword fighting. Not that I know anything about guns either. Obviously, I do not write what I know. Down the rabbit hole again.

In August, I was desperate for an out—not from the rabbit hole. I eventually got out of there—but an out as in a way of escaping in case glaring inaccuracies or inanities in the scripted sections of the novella caused an unlikely uproar. But, hah, I stumbled upon the perfect solution. The finger of blame would have to be pointed at J. Merrycraft, author of The Mésalliance. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, as promised, here, now, is the little excerpt (from Darcy’s point of view) describing his costume.

Glancing at me, Bingley picked up something from the trunk and moved my way. Grinning, he handed me an article of time-worn, brown silk. 

“No. Not on your life!” Jaw and determination firmly in place, I stood strong, prepared for any and all opposition. “I know not where those have been.” Lowering my voice so only Bingley could hear, I added, “Nor whose dangly, manly bits may have resided within. I shall wear my own breeches, thank you.” 

“Humph!” Bingley mimicked my stance. “I would not be as pernickety as you, old man, for a king’s ransom. Here.” Thrusting at me an embroidered garment that matched the aforementioned breeches, he insisted I don, at least, a justaucorps. 

(The scene continues for a while. Then we learn more about what Darcy will wear for his performance.)

At that point, I ended up with an armful of—alas, not Elizabeth— but, thanks to Bingley, a silk-cut, velvet coat, richly decorated with galloon braid and a frog fastening at the neck, a coordinating silk waistcoat, a shirt with far too many ruffles for my liking, one mangy peruke, and an ornate, three-cornered hat to top it all.

(This part of the story, by the way, continues at Austenprose on October 9.)

The above description of Darcy’s costume was written, of course, before a decision was made about a cover image for the novella, but Das Erste Rendezvous (The First Rendezvous) by Manuel de Garay almost perfectly matches the clothing I had in mind for Darcy and Elizabeth.

If you compare the original image to the novella’s cover, you’ll see that Janet Taylor removed some of the painting’s yellows to give it a softer, more natural look. Also, the young lady’s hair was given a dye job so Elizabeth would be a brunette, which seems to be the JAFF standard.

I love the cover for Play with Fire. Thank you, Janet! 

When the manuscript was finished, off it went to eagle-eyed Ellen Pickels for editing and subsequent formatting. I love the paperback’s format! Thank you, Ellen!

And thanks, again, Anna, for allowing me to ramble on and on about my novella.

Good luck to your readers in the giveaway!


About Play with Fire

Madness! It was nothing but madness from beginning to end, and Darcy was caught up in it.

What do occupants of Netherfield Park do on a dreary Saturday while the Bennet sisters are still in residence and they have nothing at all to do? They take a page from Mansfield Park, of course, and decide on a theatrical.

In the process of planning and performing the play, certain participants get more than a little carried away, especially Fitzwilliam Darcy where Elizabeth Bennet is concerned. There might even be a kiss…and a skirmish…leading to a duel.

No one involved in the play had set out with the intention of creating a scandal. None performing in the theatrical began with the aim of ending with blushing faces, or bruised bodies, or blemishes on their reputations.

Blame it on The Mésalliance.

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About the Author

J. Marie Croft

J. Marie Croft is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter, are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF novella), and her short stories in six anthologies: Sun-Kissed, The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures, Yuletide, and Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, but can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.



Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of Play with Fire to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 11, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, J. Marie, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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