New Release – Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride

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NEW RELEASE
Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride!

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Compromised. Married. Whole?

Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride: After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride, Book 2 of 4 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words where love truly does conquer all.

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I recently wrote a review lamenting the lack of appropriate punishment for those of the aristocracy. In the first book of this series, an underling was hanged but the Lord and Lady responsible were free. In Part 2, retribution is in the works at last.

Darcy confronts his Uncle, Lord Matlock, with his suspicions about Lady Catherine.

Quote from the book: “She intended worse for Elizabeth.”

“Darcy! Quiet.” Richard stepped to the desk, leaning over it to interpose himself between Darcy and the earl. “We do not mean to have Aunt Catherine shipped off in shackles or anything so punitive.”

Richard didn’t? Darcy certainly did.”

Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride:

Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

“Our uncle has the connections. His blood should be enough. I do not want Elizabeth to face the censure of Lord Braithwaite’s supporters, not to mention the gawkers. This business is already all over the gossip columns.” Secrets that were anything but secret: the names cited as initials with just enough information for all to know about whom they were writing.

Richard sighed. “A nasty business, this.”

“Elizabeth would need to remain in Town at least another fortnight to be married by Common license at a local parish. And she cannot abide strangers, now.”

It hurt Darcy to see Elizabeth so fearful. This same woman who had led him a merry chase through Hunsford, who had teased him and even climbed a tree to surprise him, now startled by the slightest sound. She refused excursions beyond the garden and, fingers clasped at her back, eyes lowered, she paced slow steps along the same narrow path, circling a fountain, potted flowers, and the spindly, sun-starved sapling that provided meager shade to the one, small bench where she sometimes sat.

Elizabeth put a good face on it. Her smile crinkled the corners of her eyes when he visited, and she told him small things of her days: the chattering sparrows that gossiped in the tree and the squirrel with a scar along his side that she had taken to feeding crusts of stale bread from the kitchens. Elizabeth was healing. Slowly. Darcy had to believe that. He had to believe that one day she would not flinch from his touching her shoulder and that the smudge of sleeplessness beneath her eyes might one day fade, bringing back the young, vibrant woman he had fallen in love with a month and a seeming decade ago.

And then there was the matter of Lord Thomas Braithwaite. Darcy burned to find the man and deliver on him the suffering he had on Elizabeth. But first, they had to find him. Securing his uncle’s support before speaking with Lady Catherine would give Darcy the edge he needed to wring every scrap of information his aunt had about Lord Braithwaite.

The carriage jerked to a halt, and outside a footman yelled at a dirty figure in a heavy coat who dashed past Darcy’s window and elbowed into the throng. It was early summer and too blasted hot. Even through the sachet of lavender Elizabeth had sewn for him, the stench of bodies, progress, and horse droppings filled the air.

“We should not speak to him of Aunt Catherine,” Richard said.

“He cannot defend her.” Edward Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Matlock, was one of the most honorable men Darcy had ever known. Rigid in his principles, much like Aunt Catherine except he at least had the sense to know which topics his knowledge lacked and even listened to those who might be better informed as opposed to forcing those around him to his opinions, no matter how ill-formed they might be.

“She is his sister.”

“And you are his son. He will not dispute your evidence.”

“Perhaps.”

Darcy was not reassured. “Do you believe he would ignore this?”

“If it were Georgiana, would you be so quick to believe?”

“If the evidence were there.” But Richard’s question had shaken Darcy’s confidence. Darcy could not imagine Georgiana forcing a woman, no matter how despised, into the clutches of one like Lord Braithwaite. And Aunt Catherine had always had her ways and rigid beliefs. But perhaps it had not always been such. Had her husband’s death hardened her? Darcy had no way of knowing Aunt Catherine as the girl his uncle remembered.

These troubling thoughts occupied Darcy for the rest of the ride to the Earl of Matlock’s townhouse. The House of Lords remained in session until late July, though some departed for their summer homes before the term was complete, if they attended at all. Thankfully, Darcy’s uncle was dedicated to his duties and still in Town, else Darcy would have been forced to write the entire sordid affair in a letter and put aside all hopes to acquire the special license to marry his love in peace.

A footman led Darcy and his cousin to the earl’s study. Edward Fitzwilliam, Earl of Matlock, sat behind a large writing desk, a tray with the remains of a breakfast at the edge. Two piles of papers lay on the desk. The earl sat behind it on a wide, heavy piece of chair that looked at least as old as he and upholstered in dark brown leather.

The earl himself was a stocky man, face long and round with a thick gray moustache matched by a thatch of gray hair, now thinning at the temples. His lips, like Richard’s, were thin with a determined set, and the lines about his mouth, eyes, and forehead showed a man often mired in the difficulties of managing his large estate. When Darcy and Richard were announced, he looked up, and his expression was grim.

“What is this business with Lord Braithwaite?” he asked. “And how is it I learn of it from the papers and not my own blood?”

Richard said, “I wrote a letter.”

“Eight lines long, accusing a peer of the realm of something this scandalous! Lord Thomas Braithwaite is a gilded cockroach, make no mistake, scurrying about in the dark and rummaging through a man’s larder when he believes no one is aware, but abducting women and branding them?”

“It is exactly that, father,” Richard said. “He has been at this for some time, long enough to have gained property and ruffians trained to this task.”

Darcy said, “He did it to the woman I love.”

“Miss Bennet?”

Darcy nodded.

Col. Fitzwilliam said, “We believe others of the Ton who took liberties with their servants contracted him.”

“Miss Bennet was no servant?”

“She was inconvenient to Aunt Catherine,” Darcy said.

His cousin shot him a glare.

“My sister could not have known, and I will not have you drag her, and all of us further into this mess.”

“It was her carriage that brought Miss Elizabeth to Lord Braithwaite’s thugs.”

“We do not know that Catherine arranged it. Nor that she knew what Braithwaite intended.”

“Aunt Catherine had my fiancée abducted! Elizabeth deserves justice.”

“So, you intend to drag your aunt in front of the House of Lords, and do what, have her shipped in shackles to the colonies?”

“She intended worse for Elizabeth.”

“Darcy! Quiet.” Richard stepped to the desk, leaning over it to interpose himself between Darcy and the earl. “We do not mean to have Aunt Catherine shipped off in shackles or anything so punitive.”

Richard didn’t? Darcy certainly did. Aunt Catherine could have accepted his decision to marry Elizabeth. Instead, she had committed a grievous crime and subjected an innocent to barbaric treatment.

And what other unfortunates had Lady Catherine sent to Lord Braithwaite? If Elizabeth were not gentry, and if Darcy had not loved her enough to do everything in his power to see her returned to him, then she too would have disappeared to India. It was only Miss Elizabeth’s status as the daughter of a baronet that allowed her to bring a charge against Lord Braithwaite. Darcy tried to remember if any other young women had disappeared from his aunt’s service, but what attention had he paid to his aunt’s maids?

Richard continued, “We need to find out all she knows of Lord Braithwaite to flush him out and bring him to justice. We only mean to speak with her.”

What game was Richard playing? They had said nothing of excusing Lady Catherine for her crimes.

“But if she admits to her involvement?” Darcy cut in. “Are we to continue on as if none of this happened?”

The earl sighed. “Darcy, son. You are young and full of fire. I envy that. I do. You wish those who have hurt your fiancée, the woman you love, to suffer. But what then? If you implicate Lady Catherine in this vile business, it stains us all. You wish to marry this woman?”

“Yes. I love her.”

“Then spare her. Give her a family whole, not torn to pieces. What good will you accomplish by making such an accusation? Against your own blood!”

“I was there.” Darcy swallowed. “Lord Braithwaite starved Miss Elizabeth, drugged her, and burned his brand upon her skin. If my aunt knows how to find him, she will tell me. Aunt Catherine is just as responsible as Lord Braithwaite for what happened to Elizabeth, and I will not forgive her nor give her quarter.” It was a matter of honor. “I love Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“If you love her, you will not pursue this path of harming your family. Miss Bennet deserves a life. Your children deserve a life without the blemish of this scandal defining their every moment.”

“I cannot forgive Aunt Catherine.”

“Have you spoken with her? How do you know she was not as deceived as the rest of us by Lord Braithwaite?”

Darcy doubted it. How could his aunt have sent Elizabeth away and fabricated the story of her returning to London to be with her family while instead driving Elizabeth into Lord Braithwaite’s clutches without having some understanding of the man’s plans? Aunt Catherine had expected Elizabeth to disappear. She must have known something. She might know something now of Lord Braithwaite’s whereabouts. Darcy had hoped to secure his uncle’s aid in acquiring the special license and his support in the upcoming trial. He had thought his uncle would be as revolted by his sister’s actions as Darcy was. Instead, Edward Fitzwilliam defended Aunt Catherine.

An icy coal of rage burned in Darcy’s gut. He could not speak. He stood, fists clenched at his sides. A family whole with the woman who had sold Elizabeth to a monster?

Richard said, “We will speak with Aunt Catherine. Find out what she knows of Lord Braithwaite. Better us than the parish constable. Or an investigator from Town.”

The Earl of Matlock nodded. “You will keep it quiet. Best we keep Catherine’s name out of this altogether.”

“No,” Darcy said. How could he face Elizabeth while covering up Aunt Catherine’s crimes?

“I know you are hurting, Darcy, and angry. Heaven knows I would be. But don’t let your anger rule you. And do not compound harm with further harm.”

“If she did this—”

“Catherine may not have known.”

Darcy doubted it down to his soul, but he could also see the pain in his uncle’s eyes. He and Aunt Catherine were siblings. She, the elder who had cared for his hurts and wiped his tears as Darcy had done with Georgiana. In acknowledgement of that pain, Darcy said, “I will not judge her before we have spoken.” It was the best he could manage.

His uncle, the earl, nodded.

“There is a matter of a special license,” Richard suggested. His expression has softened, and Darcy realized his cousin had feared the outcome of this discussion. It explained his taciturnity in the carriage and the question of Georgiana, an inkling planted in Darcy’s mind with the deftness of a well-plotted stratagem. Darcy expected no less from his cousin.

The earl agreed to make the request, and after a few more pleasantries, enough to maintain the fiction that something of this was salvageable, Darcy and Richard left.

In the carriage, Richard stared out the window as Darcy brooded. The noise, heat and stench of Town faded to a background concern, one that troubled him far less than his own thoughts.

“If Aunt Catherine is responsible, which you and I blasted well know she is, we cannot allow her to escape justice.”

Richard’s gaze remained fixed through the tin carriage window on the crowded street. “I know,” he said. “It is easier on the battlefield, when one’s enemies are obvious and one’s duties clear.”

“I have no experience of battle, Richard.”

“I fear you will soon, Darcy. In one form or another.”

Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 3

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride - Chapter 3

While Darcy had often found Rosings Park tedious, with his aunt’s incessant and ridiculous attempts to force himself and Anne into matrimony, it had not before felt sinister. Which of the servants had known Elizabeth’s fate? Which had suffered it? And what other secrets did his aunt hide?

“Hold your temper,” Col. Fitzwilliam reminded Darcy as the carriage approached the expansive entrance with wide, oak double-doors framed by large, curtained windows. The door’s frame was carved with stone figures, the impressions of impish angelic figures staring down in a mimicry of plasterwork.

Darcy said, “You have a worse temper than I.”

“I am not in love.”

Fair enough. And Darcy wanted his aunt to suffer at least as much as she had made Elizabeth. Lord Braithwaite had harmed her, but Aunt Catherine had delivered Elizabeth into Lord Braithwaite’s hands. How long had she planned this? How could she not have known?

They arrived at the front entrance and alighted from the carriage. A footman led them to the breakfast nook where Lady Catherine, in her afternoon dress, sat, her fingers resting on a piece of toast.

Aunt Catherine looked up as they were announced. “Fitzwilliam. Richard.” She nodded to them. “Sit. You must be hungry. I will have a maid bring you some breakfast. Eggs, ham, and a delightful strawberry jam—”

“We are not hungry,” Darcy said. His stomach churned.

“Then sit. I suppose this is about the business with Miss Bennet. I assure you; I knew nothing of Lord Braithwaite’s intentions.”

Darcy’s fist clenched. He was a gentleman, and a gentleman did not engage in fisticuffs with one’s aunt. And yet, Darcy wanted her to hurt. “So, you admit you sent her to him.”

“To pay her off, not to—” Lady Catherine’s nose wrinkled. “You cannot imagine I would condone abducting young women and selling them in savage lands? If that is even what Lord Braithwaite intended. The papers are often full of nonsense. Gossip and innuendo.”

“It is exactly what he intended,” Darcy said.

“Perhaps the lady exaggerated?”

Darcy stepped towards his aunt, rage boiling in his gut. Richard put an arm out, blocking him. “Darcy, sit down.”

“Richard, no need for such a show. My nephew Fitzwilliam would never harm me.”

Aunt Catherine could not be so ignorant. Darcy shook with rage. It had to be a ruse, though Aunt Catherine had never had much ability to hide her thoughts. Neither ability nor practice. “You sent her to him,” Darcy said. “He branded her.”

Aunt Catherine’s eyes widened. “Lord Braithwaite—! No!” She gasped, shaking her head. The mug of tea in her hand sloshed onto her gown. “Impossible! We have been friends since we were children. Your father too.”

“Do not bring my father into this.” Had Darcy’s father known? The other abducted young women had been servants. Maids and such. Darcy would not have noticed if one ran off. The comings and goings of lower servants were not his affair. “My father would never have condoned this,” Darcy insisted. But how could he be sure?

It must have been his aunt’s plan to make Darcy doubt himself.

And blast the woman, he doubted the breadth of his aunt’s knowledge of Braithwaite’s intentions. Her ignorance, if it was ignorance, did not change what she had done. “Did you know?” Darcy said. “What he intended.”

“He was to make her leave. I assumed he would pay her the sum I had offered and set her up in a household. Scotland as like as not. That is what I know. You cannot believe—” Her hands shook as she stared down at them. 

Aunt Catherine seemed genuine in her distress, but how could Darcy believe her? She had lied just as easily to Elizabeth. 

“I will see you stand with Lord Braithwaite at the trial,” Darcy said.

“Fitzwilliam! You are mad. Distraught! This would ruin our family.”

“You are not my family,” Darcy said.

Aunt Catherine flinched as though he had slapped her. She deserved a slap, but Darcy would not hit a woman, not even one who had subjected his future wife to such evil. He was a gentleman. He turned, without bowing, from her.

“Darcy!” Richard called after him, but Darcy could not stand to spend another moment in his aunt’s — no, Lady Catherine’s — home. His rage was such that he could not control himself or his actions. Best to step outside into the open air. He walked out onto the grounds.

The day was warm and green with flowers blooming. The beauty did little to salve his fury. His aunt deserved all she had wrought delivered upon her tenfold.

Darcy paced away from the entrance. Footmen had watered and stabled the horses, offering a respite to the beasts for their service, bringing him and his cousin here at a brisk pace. Darcy’s steps meandered him towards the stables. The company of horses, the openness of their affection at the promise of a treat, might dull his rage enough for him to think.

Darcy had been foolish to threaten his aunt before she had told them what she knew of Lord Braithwaite’s location. Darcy only hoped his cousin could pry the information from her despite Darcy’s mistake.

Halfway to the stable, his path crossed with Anne, who walked arm and arm with her companion. Darcy and Anne were not close, a mutual agreement as neither bowed to Lady Catherine’s matchmaking. Darcy suspected Anne had a secret interest in someone else of lower station or income, something she dare not reveal to her mother.

“Cousin!” Anne called out. Her expression was grim. “Please, will you speak with me for a moment?”

Reluctantly, Darcy approached. Had Anne known of her mother’s plan? His eyes narrowed as he studied her expression for signs of guilt. Anne’s expression, if possible, was paler than usual, her hair hanging limply and a red cast to her eyes, which were also puffy and irritated at the lids. Had she been weeping?

Darcy bowed. “Anne.”

Anne swallowed, squeezing her gloved hands together. “You must believe me; I did not know Mama’s intentions. Had I known, I would have insisted she stop. I do not even wish to marry you, Fitz. That is all Mama’s doing. You must— I suppose—” She breathed in again, the air whistling through her lips as she swallowed and rubbed a gloved hand beneath her eyes, which were again wet.

Anne’s misery was obvious. As she spoke, her companion rubbed her back, murmuring, “It is not your fault, love.”

“Is it true, what the paper said, about the branding?”

Darcy nodded.

Anne raised her fingers to her mouth, smothering a gasp. “How could Mama do such a thing? And what will happen to her? To us?”

Darcy had not the courage to tell his cousin he intended Aunt Catherine to stand trial with Lord Braithwaite as a coconspirator, so he stood silent as tears rolled down Anne’s face.

Anne swayed, and her companion grabbed her. “Miss Anne!”

Darcy ran to the pair of them, trying to steady them as Anne’s eyes rolled back and her body shook. Anne was prone to such spells, though they had eased some since her childhood. It was one reason Lady Catherine had kept Anne from a coming out and season in Town.

Anne’s companion, with the calm and deft movements of experience, helped Darcy settle Anne on the ground, on her side, taking measures to keep her charge from further injury.

Heavens, if Darcy put Lady Catherine before the House of Lords, and they stripped her of her title and monies, what would happen to Miss Anne de Bourgh? Darcy had no interest in marrying the woman, but he did not wish to see his cousin, an innocent in this, come to harm. Without the protection of her mother’s title and wealth, Anne’s spells would come under further scrutiny, used as proof that she had inherited Lady Catherine’s evil ways.

From behind him, his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam shouted, “Anne!” He knelt at Anne’s side, brushing limp hair from the young lady’s forehead.

Darcy had always wondered at Col. Fitzwilliam’s uncommon fondness for Anne. As relations, the strictures of propriety did not lay so heavily upon them. Had they written to each other while Richard was away on the front? He had hinted at it in an offhand manner that was nothing like Richard’s general demeanor.

Richard asked, “Mrs. Jenkinson, Is Miss Anne taken ill again?”

Anne’s companion, Mrs. Jenkinson, ignored Darcy, her gaze resting with entreaty upon Col. Fitzwilliam. “Miss Anne has been weeping herself to bed every night with worry for…”

“Tell her to calm herself. I will let nothing happen to her. To either of you.”

A pair of footmen approached at a jog.

If Richard’s feelings were more than cousin-like for Anne, Darcy could not force him to put Anne in danger. At the same time, if Lady Catherine had known what Lord Braithwaite intended, they could not allow her to escape with no punishment for her crime. Richard’s sense of honor would also insist upon the same… wouldn’t it?

And could Darcy ask such a thing of him, if it did not? Darcy would not dare take an action that put Elizabeth in danger.

What a tangle!

Darcy sighed. Anne’s spell of shaking passed, and she groaned. Once Mrs. Jenkinson determined Anne safe to move, the footmen gathered Anne up and hustled her inside, her companion following.

Darcy and the colonel returned to the carriage.

“What did Lady Catherine say, after I left?” Darcy asked.

“Our aunt shows genuine remorse. She told us what she knew of Braithwaite, what she knew of his holdings, and how she made the request. One cannot ask for this service in plain writing. There is a code.”

“And she knew it. I wonder how often she used his services.”

“Never. She made that clear. Lord Braithwaite had offered, but her husband did not have improper relations with the servants. She was most insistent.”

“And you believed her?”

“Yes.”

Ordinarily, Richard was an excellent judge of character, but his closeness to Anne and his desire to protect her might skew the man’s judgement.

“Have we any means to find this cottage?”

“It does not appear they stopped at any posting inns, so this cottage cannot be further than a day’s ride. And one of the stable hands heard them mention the name of a village, Hastingleigh.”

“Hastingleigh!” Hope bloomed in Darcy. “How far is it? Elizabeth said she had fallen asleep and arrived near dark, so it could not have been more than a few hours away.”

“The local constable should have access to maps of the area. Hopefully, this village is listed. If so, we shall travel there either this afternoon or at first light, depending.”

Darcy nodded. They rode a while longer in silence.

Richard broke it. “I suppose you saw…”

Darcy nodded. “I had suspected, but…” He brushed a leaf from the thigh of his breeches. “How long?”

“Too long. I do not have the means to marry a lady of Miss Anne’s stature.”

“If it is money, I have more than enough—                  ”

“I cannot accept your charity, Darcy.”

“It is not charity! You have helped me rescue the woman I love. Without you, Elizabeth would be on the seas now to heaven knows what fate, and Lord Braithwaite would face no censure for his actions. We would not know that he was responsible for Elizabeth’s disappearance. And I would never have stopped looking.” It would have driven Darcy mad, searching. He might never have found her. “It is not charity,” he repeated.

“Hmmm.”

“If you marry Anne, you will be able to protect her from this.”

“Will I?” Richard sighed. Another minute passed as they rode from Rosings into the countryside. “I do not think our aunt knew the extent of Lord Braithwaite’s depravity.”

“She should wish to convince you of that.”

“She has always been severe and a bit ridiculous, but…” Richard shook his head. “Lady Catherine wrote out a list of others who had used Lord Braithwaite’s ‘services’.”

“How many of the Ton?”

“Most. They have little interest in seeing his operations exposed. It may benefit us. A quick trial and quick execution will expunge their crimes, with his, upon the gallows.”

Hardly justice. It angered Darcy to see this rot so permeate the root and stem of his class. It meant something to be a gentleman or a Lord. Or it ought to mean something beyond leave to harm all those considered beneath you.

Lord Braithwaite was depraved, but what of those who delivered his victims? Those who brokered his services? Were they all as willfully blind as Lady Catherine?

“What do you think she knew?”

“Aunt Catherine wept, Darcy. She insisted she had asked him to send her out of the country, north, to Scotland, and the money she provided would set Elizabeth up in a small cottage of her own. A household. And from there, she would use a portion of the money Aunt Catherine had paid Lord Braithwaite, less his portion for organizing the affair.”

“A fine tale,” Darcy scoffed. While it was marginally less offensive that his aunt may not have intended to see Elizabeth brutalized, it did not erase that she had paid to have Elizabeth abducted and sent away. Torn away from her family and home, vanished, never to return.

“Lady Catherine cannot go unpunished.”

“I know,” Richard said. “Our uncle is right though, if we drag her through this, it will hurt our family. Matlock, Anne, and even your Elizabeth, who will have to deal with being the one who had her sent away.”

“It is not Elizabeth’s fault!”

“Calm down, Darcy.” Richard, facing backwards, leaned into the gap between them. They sat at opposite sides of the carriage. “First, we have to find the man, or enough evidence at least of his crimes to connect him to them. If we can spare Miss Elizabeth having to testify, all the better.”

Darcy nodded. “Yes.”

“But before that, you must marry. The earl will have gotten the special license by the morrow.”

Darcy nodded and forced a smile, but he was torn. He wanted Elizabeth as his wife. She would be safe, and nobody would doubt his claim on her. At the same time, he was uncertain how even to bring up the subject of their wedding night. Mrs. Gardiner had assured Darcy, with great discretion, that Elizabeth had suffered no intimate violation. But Lord Braithwaite had hurt her terribly, and she still flinched when caught by surprise. And she was still ashamed of her appearance: her shorn hair, thinness, and the bruises. Elizabeth had responded to his kisses, before. But now, how could he be sure she was ready now?

“All will be well, Darcy,” Richard said, leaning and tapping Darcy on the knee. “Yours is a trial love has overcome.” Richard’s gaze unfocused, and Darcy realized he must be thinking of Anne.

“Whatever you need of me, Richard,” Darcy said. “You have but to ask.”

With only the occasional break for small talk, both men’s thoughts occupied them until they returned to London.

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Compromised. Married. Whole?

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride, Book 2 of 4 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words where love truly does conquer all.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 2

Elizabeth and Jane sat together in the garden, ostensibly watching their niece and nephew. Mrs. Bennet, thankfully, was out with Mrs. Gardiner looking to choose flowers for the wedding ceremony as the promise of a special license had Mrs. Bennet in fits of ecstasy.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 3

While Darcy had often found Rosings Park tedious, with his aunt’s incessant and ridiculous attempts to force himself and Anne into matrimony, it had not before felt sinister. Which of the servants had known Elizabeth’s fate? Which had suffered it? And what other secrets did his aunt hide?

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New Release – Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapter 1

Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 2-3

After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 4-5

“Highwaymen you say?”

Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 2

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride - Chapter 2

Elizabeth and Jane sat together in the garden, ostensibly watching their niece and nephew. Mrs. Bennet, thankfully, was out with Mrs. Gardiner looking to choose flowers for the wedding ceremony as the promise of a special license had Mrs. Bennet in fits of ecstasy.

Darcy and Mr. Bennet had agreed, much without Elizabeth’s involvement, it best for the couple to marry before returning to Hertfordshire. As Lord Braithwaite’s crimes came to light, the gossip rags flitted between sympathy for the abducted women and arguments that the situation had been exaggerated to spare the women the consequences of their own loose morals. Jane had attempted to shield Elizabeth from the worst of it, but Elizabeth woke earlier and read the papers before the others woke, preferring uncomfortable truth to misty ignorance, no matter how comfortable the latter.

“Can you smile just a little, Lizzy? You are to be wed! And we shall have months together without our mother lamenting that you will never find a gentleman to match our cousin.” Jane smiled, her expression hopeful and vaguely entreating, as if by being cheerful enough, she might pull Elizabeth from the nightmares that woke her, clutching her duvet and swallowing screams as Jane slept on beside her, breaths even and soothing until Elizabeth’s eyes shut and the nightmares returned.

Elizabeth smiled. “I am sorry, Jane. I do not wish to worry you.”

“Do not apologize. All you have suffered; most would have broken.”

“I broke,” Elizabeth whispered.

“No. Never think that.” Jane put an arm around her sister, and Elizabeth leaned into her sister’s embrace.

The air smelled of flowers, manure, and distant fish. Once, Elizabeth might have found the approaching London summer off-putting. Elizabeth preferred the fresh smells of country spring to the increasing pungency of late spring London. Now, the smell hardly warranted her attention. She was clean and in the air, however London’s shroud diluted the sun.

In the thin branches of the tree behind them, a pair of starlings chirped at each other. A cheerful conversation that at one time would have had Elizabeth putting words to it. Or making some jest to make Jane laugh. Now, Elizabeth could not imagine a single story. They were birds, nothing more.

Jane said, “And Mr. Darcy loves you.”

“And I him.” Elizabeth could not doubt her love. It had seen her through the darkness and out of the mist to his arms. But would love be enough? Elizabeth had feared before trapping Mr. Darcy into a marriage he might regret. What if she could not perform her duties as a wife?

Last night, Jane, asleep, had flung her arm over Elizabeth at night, and she had startled awake, the smell of burning flesh in her throat. Lord Braithwaite’s men had drugged her, and their voices whispered in her dreams, their fingers on her arms, back, and hips as they walked her to the ship with promises of future pleasures she doubted were anything of the like.

Why could she not forget? If she could not put this behind her, she could not move forward with Mr. Darcy into a loving marriage.

Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam, would see Lord Braithwaite hanged. And when they did, there would be a trial in the House of Lords, and Elizabeth, as daughter of a baronet, was the only of the abducted women who could make charges against a Lord. She would have to give her testimony, share her shame with so many strangers. Elizabeth could not bear it.

Elizabeth said, “I always wished to marry for love.”

“You are. And so you must be happy.”

Elizabeth forced a smile. Jane was right. Elizabeth had to be a fit wife for the man she loved. She could not share with him her fears. She had burdened him so much already.

With that thought, Elizabeth lifted her chin. The birds still told no stories, but it was of no matter. “Did Mr. Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam say when they would return?”

“Before dinner.” Jane cocked her head, her teeth worrying a moment at her lower lip. “I…I should not ask, but Aunt Gardiner said it might be good for you to get out.”

“Where?” Elizabeth was caught between desire and fear. She felt trapped in her aunt and uncle’s home, but even the thought of leaving, stepping into a carriage, being exposed where anyone could take her…the fear made her mouth dry and hands shake. She looked down at them, willing them still.

At the far end of the garden, her niece and nephew played a game with changeable rules, one chasing the other and eliciting different effects depending on whether the recipient was tagged on the shoulder, hand, back, or head. They had a rule about points, which Elizabeth also did not understand, but it calmed her to see them laughing.

Lucy dashed over to Jane and Elizabeth, ducking between the pair of them under the bench, her brother in hot pursuit. “Save me!”

“Lucy!” Jane rarely raised her voice at the two children, who adored her, and Elizabeth knew herself to be at fault for her sister’s temper.

Elizabeth forced another smile and stood. She would not let her lethargy and memories rob her of her family and life. What purpose would Mr. Darcy’s rescue serve if she could not be the woman he had fallen in love with?

“What is this game?” she asked, placing herself between her niece and nephew, who, upon Elizabeth’s standing up, had tried to skirt around Elizabeth’s side towards his sister.

“Hide and Go Plague,” the boy, Hugh, explained. “We made it up. Lucy tagged me, so I have the Plague, and if I touch you, you’ve got it too.”

“Gruesome,” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “What happens when everyone has it?”

“We start over with different rules. Play with us?”

“Lizzy is still recovering,” Jane cut in.

“I will play.”

“You will!” Jane’s smile widened and the tension about her neck and eyes eased. That alone made Elizabeth’s agreement to play worth it. 

They restarted the game, meeting at the fountain as the two children ran through a dizzying series of rules.

“So, I am an angel?” Elizabeth asked. “Or the monster?” With her shorn hair and horrid memories, Elizabeth felt far more the monster than the angel, but Jane said, “I shall be the monster. Lizzy makes a right lovely angel, does she not?”

Lucy nodded and Hugh shrugged. “‘Suppose,” he said. “Jane, count to twenty. We will hide. When Jane gets one of us, Lizzy, you bless the plague out before we can infect the other one. Do you understand?”

Lizzy smiled. “I think so.”

They dashed around, chasing each other, and the London air seemed in that time lighter. The small garden, at first limiting, again held possibilities. Elizabeth’s lungs filled, her legs pumping as she ran for Lucy who had been infected and was making haste to grab her brother.

Back to the door, her ears filled with the delighted shrieks and laughter of her family, Elizabeth did not recognize Mr. Darcy’s entrance until she whirled around and dashed right into his chest.

Startled, her breath caught.

“Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy said, placing his hands on her shoulders to steady her.

Elizabeth’s heart pounded and the blood rushed from her face, leaving her caught between flight and collapse. She was a captive again.

“Elizabeth!” Darcy released her, and Elizabeth stepped back. She blinked. No. She would not run away from her love. She clasped her hands together, rubbing her right thumb over the joint of her left.

“Well—” Elizabeth took a breath. “I am well.” As terrible as it was to fear him, worse would be to tell him she was afraid.

Col. Fitzwilliam stood behind Mr. Darcy, his expression grim. “Darcy, the Gardiners await us in the parlor.”

Elizabeth forced a smile. “Let us join you. Was your uncle very upset?” About Darcy marrying a nobody, a ruined woman, and asking a special license to do it? Elizabeth suspected the gentleman, the Earl of Matlock, was furious. And he had more power to cause her and her family harm than even Lady Catherine.

Why had Elizabeth agreed to the special license? She loved Mr. Darcy with all of her soul and will, but was that enough? And if it was not, what harm would she do to shackle Mr. Darcy to a woman who flinched when he touched her intimately?

“Miss Elizabeth,” Mr. Darcy said, “Are you well?”

“Quite.” Elizabeth forced a smile. They were back to formality again. He, Mr. Darcy, she Miss Elizabeth. She hated the distance between them and how it was all her fault.

Jane knelt before the children. “We must speak with your parents. Do you mind if we play again another time?”

“It is about the bad man, the one who hurt Aunt Elizabeth?” Lucy asked, pulling at a tendril of hair that had escaped its braid.

“We will make certain he hurts no one again,” Mr. Darcy declared.

Elizabeth valued his confidence even as she mourned the fact her niece and nephew knew of Lord Braithwaite. They must have overheard their parents or someone else in the house speaking of him.

Jane nodded. “Yes, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are determined. They will see things turn out right.”

“Good,” the boy, Hugh, said. “And if that Braithwaite comes ‘round here, I’ll stick him with the fire poker. Gut him like a fish!”

“It will not come to that,” Mr. Darcy said. “Though the ladies of the household appreciate your protection. It is a gentleman’s duty to protect the ladies of his house.”

Hugh nodded, and though Elizabeth should have found the entire conversation ridiculous, it touched her. She nodded to her nephew. “Thank you.”

Elizabeth and Jane followed Mr. Darcy and the colonel to the parlor. The Gardiners and Mr. Bennet were there. Thankfully, Mrs. Bennet was still out.

On the main table sat a tray of cold meats, seasonal fruit and tea.

Though not hungry, Elizabeth made herself a plate. She took a strawberry, under ripe and tart, and chewed it slowly.

“Lizzy,” Mrs. Gardiner remarked, “I heard laughter through the window. The children pulled the pair of you into one of their games?”

Elizabeth nodded and her smile came naturally, thinking of the moment of fun she had had with her niece and nephew. “The rules are…complex.”

“That is a word for it,” Mrs. Gardiner said.

“I found it lovely,” Jane said. “It was good to see my sister enjoy herself.”

The relief and pain in Jane’s voice at Elizabeth’s suffering was obvious to Elizabeth, though others might be mistaken by Jane’s polite tone and serene features.

Across the table, seated next to Mr. Darcy, Col. Fitzwilliam tapped his index finger against the side of his teacup in time with his feet, crossed at the ankles in front of him.

The colonel, Elizabeth had learned, preferred action to words. He likely found this small-talk tedious, though he was gentleman enough to maintain his manners. Best cut to the chase. Elizabeth asked, “You bring news? Have they found Lord Braithwaite?”

Mr. Darcy shook his head. “Lord Braithwaite is gone to ground for now, though he will not stay hidden for long. It will be an admission of guilt if he refuses a summons to appear before the House of Lords in this matter.”

If Lord Braithwaite refused to appear before the House of Lords, then Elizabeth would not have to relive her shame in giving her testimony. Was it so terrible she wished he would just vanish? Except, if he fled to India or the Continent with his ill-gotten gains, nothing would stop him from restarting his trade in young women like herself.

Elizabeth tried again to imagine herself telling her story to the House of Lords. Her mouth went dry and her skin cold. She shivered. She could not even tell her fiancé of her fears. How could she tell a group of strangers of her ruin?  

Maybe Lord Braithwaite would fall in a ditch and die. It was sinful to pray for a man’s death, but considering Lord Braithwaite’s actions, Elizabeth hoped God would understand.

“Are you and my sister to marry here, in Town?” Jane asked.

“For her reputation, it is best we marry as soon as possible,” Mr. Darcy said. “But I wish to have a more formal celebration in Hertfordshire when this is settled.”

Settled. Would it ever be settled?

“We should have the special license in hand the day after tomorrow, when I return.”

“Where are you going?” Elizabeth hated how weak her voice sounded. She swallowed.

“We have to speak with our aunt,” Col. Fitzwilliam said. “If she can give us more information about Lord Braithwaite, we can use that to find him. Or to gather evidence against him. And the cabin you told us of, if we can find this Willow, Bart, and her son, it will make things much easier.”

“Perhaps I can help?”

“It would be best if you not confront Lady Catherine,” Mr. Darcy said.

Reluctantly, Elizabeth had to agree to the logic of this. “So, I will not see you tomorrow?”

“I do not intend to stay the night, but I will need to visit my uncle for the license. And then we will marry. That will put an end to all the talk.”

Elizabeth nodded. She had hoped her marriage would be more than a means to quell gossip, but things were so different now than when she had made her girlish dreams. At least she and Mr. Darcy loved each other. That was all that mattered.

Though their lives were to be joined in two days’ time, Elizabeth feared Mr. Darcy was slipping away. Or maybe her own fears put him at a distance.

I will do better when we are wed, Elizabeth vowed.

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Compromised. Married. Whole?

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride, Book 2 of 4 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words where love truly does conquer all.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 2

Elizabeth and Jane sat together in the garden, ostensibly watching their niece and nephew. Mrs. Bennet, thankfully, was out with Mrs. Gardiner looking to choose flowers for the wedding ceremony as the promise of a special license had Mrs. Bennet in fits of ecstasy.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 3

While Darcy had often found Rosings Park tedious, with his aunt’s incessant and ridiculous attempts to force himself and Anne into matrimony, it had not before felt sinister. Which of the servants had known Elizabeth’s fate? Which had suffered it? And what other secrets did his aunt hide?

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New Release – Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

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An Unsuitable Governess Cover

Sparks fly when Miss Elizabeth Bennet takes work as a governess at Pemberley.

Will deceptions, highwaymen, and a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together or tear them apart?

After rejecting Mr. Collins proposal, Miss Elizabeth Bennet assumes the persona of a widow and goes to Lambton to find work. But when she befriends Mr. Darcy’s half-sister Rose and becomes her governess, she must contend with Mr. Darcy, a man she wishes to despise, and Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, a man she wants to love but cannot. With Rose’s help, will Elizabeth find the strength to follow her heart?

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would sooner face bandits than return to Pemberley and deal with his stepmother — alas, he must do both. And when he discovers Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his home, serving as governess to his half-sister Rose, things go from bad to worse. Col. Fitzwilliam is falling for her. Mr. Darcy is too — or would be, if Miss Elizabeth were at all suitable. Will Mr. Darcy stop denying his heart before his cousin steals Elizabeth’s?

Find out in An Unsuitable Governess, a standalone Pride and Prejudice novel of 64,000 words

Warning! This book contains: one not at all wicked stepmother, one 100% wicked band of highwaymen, one rambunctious eleven-year-old, one deceptive governess with a heart of gold, one love-stricken colonel, one handsome gentleman in denial of his true feelings, one found treasure, and two happily ever afters to set your heart aflutter.

If undeterred, grab a copy of An Unsuitable Governess today!

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapter 1

Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 2-3

After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 4-5

“Highwaymen you say?”

Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 1

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Days
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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride - Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

“Our uncle has the connections. His blood should be enough. I do not want Elizabeth to face the censure of Lord Braithwaite’s supporters, not to mention the gawkers. This business is already all over the gossip columns.” Secrets that were anything but secret: the names cited as initials with just enough information for all to know about whom they were writing.

Richard sighed. “A nasty business, this.”

“Elizabeth would need to remain in Town at least another fortnight to be married by Common license at a local parish. And she cannot abide strangers, now.”

It hurt Darcy to see Elizabeth so fearful. This same woman who had led him a merry chase through Hunsford, who had teased him and even climbed a tree to surprise him, now startled by the slightest sound. She refused excursions beyond the garden and, fingers clasped at her back, eyes lowered, she paced slow steps along the same narrow path, circling a fountain, potted flowers, and the spindly, sun-starved sapling that provided meager shade to the one, small bench where she sometimes sat.

Elizabeth put a good face on it. Her smile crinkled the corners of her eyes when he visited, and she told him small things of her days: the chattering sparrows that gossiped in the tree and the squirrel with a scar along his side that she had taken to feeding crusts of stale bread from the kitchens. Elizabeth was healing. Slowly. Darcy had to believe that. He had to believe that one day she would not flinch from his touching her shoulder and that the smudge of sleeplessness beneath her eyes might one day fade, bringing back the young, vibrant woman he had fallen in love with a month and a seeming decade ago.

And then there was the matter of Lord Thomas Braithwaite. Darcy burned to find the man and deliver on him the suffering he had on Elizabeth. But first, they had to find him. Securing his uncle’s support before speaking with Lady Catherine would give Darcy the edge he needed to wring every scrap of information his aunt had about Lord Braithwaite.

The carriage jerked to a halt, and outside a footman yelled at a dirty figure in a heavy coat who dashed past Darcy’s window and elbowed into the throng. It was early summer and too blasted hot. Even through the sachet of lavender Elizabeth had sewn for him, the stench of bodies, progress, and horse droppings filled the air.

“We should not speak to him of Aunt Catherine,” Richard said.

“He cannot defend her.” Edward Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Matlock, was one of the most honorable men Darcy had ever known. Rigid in his principles, much like Aunt Catherine except he at least had the sense to know which topics his knowledge lacked and even listened to those who might be better informed as opposed to forcing those around him to his opinions, no matter how ill-formed they might be.

“She is his sister.”

“And you are his son. He will not dispute your evidence.”

“Perhaps.”

Darcy was not reassured. “Do you believe he would ignore this?”

“If it were Georgiana, would you be so quick to believe?”

“If the evidence were there.” But Richard’s question had shaken Darcy’s confidence. Darcy could not imagine Georgiana forcing a woman, no matter how despised, into the clutches of one like Lord Braithwaite. And Aunt Catherine had always had her ways and rigid beliefs. But perhaps it had not always been such. Had her husband’s death hardened her? Darcy had no way of knowing Aunt Catherine as the girl his uncle remembered.

These troubling thoughts occupied Darcy for the rest of the ride to the Earl of Matlock’s townhouse. The House of Lords remained in session until late July, though some departed for their summer homes before the term was complete, if they attended at all. Thankfully, Darcy’s uncle was dedicated to his duties and still in Town, else Darcy would have been forced to write the entire sordid affair in a letter and put aside all hopes to acquire the special license to marry his love in peace.

A footman led Darcy and his cousin to the earl’s study. Edward Fitzwilliam, Earl of Matlock, sat behind a large writing desk, a tray with the remains of a breakfast at the edge. Two piles of papers lay on the desk. The earl sat behind it on a wide, heavy piece of chair that looked at least as old as he and upholstered in dark brown leather.

The earl himself was a stocky man, face long and round with a thick gray moustache matched by a thatch of gray hair, now thinning at the temples. His lips, like Richard’s, were thin with a determined set, and the lines about his mouth, eyes, and forehead showed a man often mired in the difficulties of managing his large estate. When Darcy and Richard were announced, he looked up, and his expression was grim.

“What is this business with Lord Braithwaite?” he asked. “And how is it I learn of it from the papers and not my own blood?”

Richard said, “I wrote a letter.”

“Eight lines long, accusing a peer of the realm of something this scandalous! Lord Thomas Braithwaite is a gilded cockroach, make no mistake, scurrying about in the dark and rummaging through a man’s larder when he believes no one is aware, but abducting women and branding them?”

“It is exactly that, father,” Richard said. “He has been at this for some time, long enough to have gained property and ruffians trained to this task.”

Darcy said, “He did it to the woman I love.”

“Miss Bennet?”

Darcy nodded.

Col. Fitzwilliam said, “We believe others of the Ton who took liberties with their servants contracted him.”

“Miss Bennet was no servant?”

“She was inconvenient to Aunt Catherine,” Darcy said.

His cousin shot him a glare.

“My sister could not have known, and I will not have you drag her, and all of us further into this mess.”

“It was her carriage that brought Miss Elizabeth to Lord Braithwaite’s thugs.”

“We do not know that Catherine arranged it. Nor that she knew what Braithwaite intended.”

“Aunt Catherine had my fiancée abducted! Elizabeth deserves justice.”

“So, you intend to drag your aunt in front of the House of Lords, and do what, have her shipped in shackles to the colonies?”

“She intended worse for Elizabeth.”

“Darcy! Quiet.” Richard stepped to the desk, leaning over it to interpose himself between Darcy and the earl. “We do not mean to have Aunt Catherine shipped off in shackles or anything so punitive.”

Richard didn’t? Darcy certainly did. Aunt Catherine could have accepted his decision to marry Elizabeth. Instead, she had committed a grievous crime and subjected an innocent to barbaric treatment.

And what other unfortunates had Lady Catherine sent to Lord Braithwaite? If Elizabeth were not gentry, and if Darcy had not loved her enough to do everything in his power to see her returned to him, then she too would have disappeared to India. It was only Miss Elizabeth’s status as the daughter of a baronet that allowed her to bring a charge against Lord Braithwaite. Darcy tried to remember if any other young women had disappeared from his aunt’s service, but what attention had he paid to his aunt’s maids?

Richard continued, “We need to find out all she knows of Lord Braithwaite to flush him out and bring him to justice. We only mean to speak with her.”

What game was Richard playing? They had said nothing of excusing Lady Catherine for her crimes.

“But if she admits to her involvement?” Darcy cut in. “Are we to continue on as if none of this happened?”

The earl sighed. “Darcy, son. You are young and full of fire. I envy that. I do. You wish those who have hurt your fiancée, the woman you love, to suffer. But what then? If you implicate Lady Catherine in this vile business, it stains us all. You wish to marry this woman?”

“Yes. I love her.”

“Then spare her. Give her a family whole, not torn to pieces. What good will you accomplish by making such an accusation? Against your own blood!”

“I was there.” Darcy swallowed. “Lord Braithwaite starved Miss Elizabeth, drugged her, and burned his brand upon her skin. If my aunt knows how to find him, she will tell me. Aunt Catherine is just as responsible as Lord Braithwaite for what happened to Elizabeth, and I will not forgive her nor give her quarter.” It was a matter of honor. “I love Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“If you love her, you will not pursue this path of harming your family. Miss Bennet deserves a life. Your children deserve a life without the blemish of this scandal defining their every moment.”

“I cannot forgive Aunt Catherine.”

“Have you spoken with her? How do you know she was not as deceived as the rest of us by Lord Braithwaite?”

Darcy doubted it. How could his aunt have sent Elizabeth away and fabricated the story of her returning to London to be with her family while instead driving Elizabeth into Lord Braithwaite’s clutches without having some understanding of the man’s plans? Aunt Catherine had expected Elizabeth to disappear. She must have known something. She might know something now of Lord Braithwaite’s whereabouts. Darcy had hoped to secure his uncle’s aid in acquiring the special license and his support in the upcoming trial. He had thought his uncle would be as revolted by his sister’s actions as Darcy was. Instead, Edward Fitzwilliam defended Aunt Catherine.

An icy coal of rage burned in Darcy’s gut. He could not speak. He stood, fists clenched at his sides. A family whole with the woman who had sold Elizabeth to a monster?

Richard said, “We will speak with Aunt Catherine. Find out what she knows of Lord Braithwaite. Better us than the parish constable. Or an investigator from Town.”

The Earl of Matlock nodded. “You will keep it quiet. Best we keep Catherine’s name out of this altogether.”

“No,” Darcy said. How could he face Elizabeth while covering up Aunt Catherine’s crimes?

“I know you are hurting, Darcy, and angry. Heaven knows I would be. But don’t let your anger rule you. And do not compound harm with further harm.”

“If she did this—”

“Catherine may not have known.”

Darcy doubted it down to his soul, but he could also see the pain in his uncle’s eyes. He and Aunt Catherine were siblings. She, the elder who had cared for his hurts and wiped his tears as Darcy had done with Georgiana. In acknowledgement of that pain, Darcy said, “I will not judge her before we have spoken.” It was the best he could manage.

His uncle, the earl, nodded.

“There is a matter of a special license,” Richard suggested. His expression has softened, and Darcy realized his cousin had feared the outcome of this discussion. It explained his taciturnity in the carriage and the question of Georgiana, an inkling planted in Darcy’s mind with the deftness of a well-plotted stratagem. Darcy expected no less from his cousin.

The earl agreed to make the request, and after a few more pleasantries, enough to maintain the fiction that something of this was salvageable, Darcy and Richard left.

In the carriage, Richard stared out the window as Darcy brooded. The noise, heat and stench of Town faded to a background concern, one that troubled him far less than his own thoughts.

“If Aunt Catherine is responsible, which you and I blasted well know she is, we cannot allow her to escape justice.”

Richard’s gaze remained fixed through the tin carriage window on the crowded street. “I know,” he said. “It is easier on the battlefield, when one’s enemies are obvious and one’s duties clear.”

“I have no experience of battle, Richard.”

“I fear you will soon, Darcy. In one form or another.”

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Mr. Darcy's Ruined Bride Cover

Compromised. Married. Whole?

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride, Book 2 of 4 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words where love truly does conquer all.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 1

Across from Darcy in the carriage, Col. Richard Fitzwilliam sat, legs extended, left foot tapping at the air. “Why did you tell Miss Bennet’s parents you would be married by special license? We cannot pull one from thin air.”

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 2

Elizabeth and Jane sat together in the garden, ostensibly watching their niece and nephew. Mrs. Bennet, thankfully, was out with Mrs. Gardiner looking to choose flowers for the wedding ceremony as the promise of a special license had Mrs. Bennet in fits of ecstasy.

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Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride – Chapter 3

While Darcy had often found Rosings Park tedious, with his aunt’s incessant and ridiculous attempts to force himself and Anne into matrimony, it had not before felt sinister. Which of the servants had known Elizabeth’s fate? Which had suffered it? And what other secrets did his aunt hide?

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New Release – Mr. Darcy’s Ruined Bride

After Mr. Darcy rescues Elizabeth, to spare her reputation, they marry in haste and make plans to return to Longbourn. But when new evidence comes to light, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s bridal tour is diverted as she, her new husband, and Col. Fitzwilliam hunt down Elizabeth’s captors. Worse, Elizabeth’s memories haunt her, threatening to drive Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart even as they long to consummate their vows. Will love and a foundling child give Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy the courage to save their marriage from enemies within and without?

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An Unsuitable Governess Cover

Sparks fly when Miss Elizabeth Bennet takes work as a governess at Pemberley.

Will deceptions, highwaymen, and a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together or tear them apart?

After rejecting Mr. Collins proposal, Miss Elizabeth Bennet assumes the persona of a widow and goes to Lambton to find work. But when she befriends Mr. Darcy’s half-sister Rose and becomes her governess, she must contend with Mr. Darcy, a man she wishes to despise, and Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, a man she wants to love but cannot. With Rose’s help, will Elizabeth find the strength to follow her heart?

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would sooner face bandits than return to Pemberley and deal with his stepmother — alas, he must do both. And when he discovers Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his home, serving as governess to his half-sister Rose, things go from bad to worse. Col. Fitzwilliam is falling for her. Mr. Darcy is too — or would be, if Miss Elizabeth were at all suitable. Will Mr. Darcy stop denying his heart before his cousin steals Elizabeth’s?

Find out in An Unsuitable Governess, a standalone Pride and Prejudice novel of 64,000 words

Warning! This book contains: one not at all wicked stepmother, one 100% wicked band of highwaymen, one rambunctious eleven-year-old, one deceptive governess with a heart of gold, one love-stricken colonel, one handsome gentleman in denial of his true feelings, one found treasure, and two happily ever afters to set your heart aflutter.

If undeterred, grab a copy of An Unsuitable Governess today!

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapter 1

Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 2-3

After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 4-5

“Highwaymen you say?”

Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.

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