New Release – Darcy’s Winter Delight

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One snowed-in night reveals the depth of Elizabeth’s desire and all Mr. Darcy will do to fulfill it…

When Lady Catherine’s misguided marital advice leads Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy to flee Rosings, the loving couple find themselves in a cottage, snowed in, together. One night will reveal the depths of Elizabeth’s desire and all Mr. Darcy will do to fulfill it. But what of Elizabeth’s secret?

Find out in Darcy’s Winter Delight, a steamy Pride and Prejudice variation guaranteed to keep you hot and bothered, turning pages, to a very happy ending.

If you love steamy Pride and Prejudice variations, start reading Darcy’s Winter Delight now!

Read Free Chapters:

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Darcy’s Winter Delight – Chapter 1

Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy sat across from Lady Catherine, cradling a cup of lukewarm tea as she shifted on the finely upholstered yet unyielding chair of the lady’s ostentatious drawing room. Portraits stared down in flat-eyed judgment. Every surface was covered in finery: elaborate plaster molding along the ceiling, lace clothes over the tables scattered with statuary that seemed caught in a perpetual state of flight. Elizabeth wished to flee with them, but marriage required certain niceties; honoring her husband’s family – now her family – amongst the height of them.

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Darcy’s Winter Delight – Chapter 2

“Beets. We must serve her a diet of pickled beets. I craved them so when I was with child. And we shall call for a surgeon to bleed her. With such fervor, the child will grow too large and far too restless.”

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Darcy’s Winter Delight – Chapter 3

Elizabeth wished it were not improper for ladies to wish interruptions of this sort to the blazing fires of sin. Oh, but her husband’s mouth. His hands. Her face heated again. They had only begun, and Elizabeth still ached for him.

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Darcy’s Winter Delight – Chapter 6

Upon the piled pair of duvets in front of the crackling fire, Elizabeth studied the flicker of light over his bare shoulders and chest. She wore only her chemise, her gown and stays tossed into a pile atop a short, low-backed chair just outside the firelight. Elizabeth pulled her hairpins out, one by one, caught between the heat of her own desire and the intention in her husband’s gaze.

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Happy Birthday Jane Austen! Contest, Austen Home Brewing and More…

Happy Birthday Jane Austen
Happy Birthday Jane Austen

On December 16th, 1775, A Star Was Born!

This post includes fun facts about Jane Austen and a contest! Enjoy!

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England on December 16, 1775 to George Austen, a rector, and Cassandra Austen. She was the second-youngest of eight, and fell in love with books partially due to  her father George’s vast home library.  (Makes you wonder how much of Mr. Bennet’s character was inspired by George Austen.) 

Jane Austen also put her money where her mouth was and, in 1801 at 27-years-old with no income, turned down a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, which while it would have provided her with financial stability did not promise love.  You can read more about Jane Austen’s life here

Austen originally published all of her books anonymously, under the byline, “A Lady.”  If you’re wondering why so many Austen inspired works on Amazon are co-authored by ‘A Lady,’  think of it as a homage to Austen’s original pen name!

Inspired by first person, epistolary works of her time, Jane Austen helped invent the third person, limited point of view by allowing readers to hear the characters thoughts as a part of the third person narrative.  This is a tool writers of all genres use to this day. 

And Jane Austen brewed her own beer. She wasn’t the only Regency-era woman to craft brew, either. Brewing beer was part of women’s lives for centuries.  One of Austen’s specialties was spruce beer, a kind of cousin of root beer that contained hops and molasses.  You can learn more about Austen’s home brewing here

In summation, Jane Austen was a popular fiction author and a woman who stood by her convictions. Convictions that imbued her fiction work. I think that’s why her books still touch our hearts. 

So onto the contest! Because Jane Austen was an author who spoke to the popular spirit, I couldn’t help but think this mug would be a perfect thing to give away on her birthday week. 

Contest ends Sunday, Dec. 22nd, 2019. 

Winners will be announced on Monday,  Dec. 23rd, 2019. 

Enter the Straight Outta Jane Austen's Birthday Contest Here:

This mug is also available on Etsy for purchase.

Let me know what you think about the contest, Austen’s birthday, and anything else that tickles your funny bone in the comments. 

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An Unsuitable Governess Graphic

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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Darcy’s Hidden Desire – Chapters 1-2

Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy woke as her husband pulled his arm from around her and sat up. She wished Fitzwilliam had only awakened to use the chamber pot and not to steal away from her bed. The bed she wished they shared.

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Mr. Darcy’s Seaside Romance – Chapters 1-2

“Lizzy, you have convinced me.” Mr. Bennet stood, his lips tight with the corners turned downwards with an uncharacteristic frown. “If our Lydia is incapable of weathering the perils of Brighton on her own, then you, being possessed of a keen sense and an agile mind, must accompany her.”

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Darcy’s Stolen Rendezvous – Chapter 1

The afternoon sky hung gray and heavy over Pemberley, an ill portent for the afternoon ride to the posting inn and an excellent one for the evening with her husband. After ten days apart, Elizabeth would spend the evening tangled in Mr. Darcy’s arms as the rain pounded the posting inn’s roof.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Prologue

Thirst. Elizabeth that she had never truly been thirsty before. Before, drinking happened without a second thought; a servant was called, and Elizabeth drank. Now, her tongue lay like dry dough in her mouth. Elizabeth ran her fingers along the damp, stone floor. Her chained leg clinked with her movement. The links ran to an iron ring nailed into the wall, too dark and too far away to see.

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Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 4-5

Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher
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A secret letter brings them together. Will an assassin tear them apart?

For Miss Elizabeth Bennet, love is the cipher she cannot crack.

Outside the Longbourn house, Elizabeth Bennet is an ordinary country miss. But in secret, she and her father crack codes to foil Napoleon’s schemes against England. More than anything, Elizabeth wants to be loved for herself, but how can she when she lives a double life?

For Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a coded letter hides the key to his heart.

After Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brother is killed in France, a coded letter carries his final words and a dangerous secret. Mr. Darcy brings the letter to the Bennets for answers. But soon the code is the least of Mr. Darcy’s conundrums as he finds himself falling for Elizabeth Bennet. Caught between an assassin and an old enemy, can Mr. Darcy accept his feelings and win Miss Elizabeth’s heart before it is too late?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Cipher, Book 1 of the Spies and Prejudice series. Mr. Darcy’s Cipher is a Pride and Prejudice variation with heaps of romance, humor, suspense, code-cracking, and two sometimes bullheaded but lovable leads who struggle to save a nation while falling in love. 

If you love Pride and Prejudice variations with a twist of espionage, start reading Mr. Darcy’s Cipher now!

Chapter 4

It was not Mr. Wickham’s first evening at the gambling hell known as “the Danny house,” but it had been, by far, his best. An excellent supper filled his belly, and his skin hummed with the pleasant warmth of first-rate whiskey while the taste of an outstanding cigar settled comfortably at the back of his tongue.

“You ought to try one of these,” Mr. Wickham said, inhaling another puff of his cigar.

“I prefer to enjoy my drink unencumbered,” Mr. Smith, a wide-eyed, self-proclaimed country gentleman in well-kept clothing that was a decade out of fashion, stared at his hand and tapped nervously with his index finger on his cheekbone. “We are not so fond of the pipe in Monogan.”

“More’s the pity,” Mr. Wickham responded absently. Though Mr. Smith did a fair job of hiding his northern accent, there was an odd tone to his vowels that betrayed he was not a Londoner. Better for Wickham. He’d spent enough time in the gambling hells that most knew to give him a wide berth, both because he was a fierce player and his ability to pay his debts shifted with the capriciousness of his own luck.

Commerce was a simple game and one where Mr. Wickham excelled. Three cards were dealt, and one tried to get cards of a kind or runs with the cards in order. He stared down at his hand: ten of clubs, jack of clubs and a four of hearts. One card away from his third straight of the night.

If Mr. Wickham was inclined towards crises of conscience, he might have felt badly about how he’d spent the past two days cleaning out the other man’s purse, but luck was a fickle mistress. More often than not, she took from Wickham more than she gave.

Mr. Smith fiddled with his cards before taking two of them and placing them facedown on the table. “Deux,” he said, with a remarkably smooth French accent.

Mr. Wickham smiled, “You must have had an excellent tutor,” he said and slid two cards across the table.

Oui,” Mr. Smith smiled. Beneath his bushy mustache, his teeth were white and straight. “She was like a mother to me.”

A stab of jealousy passed through Mr. Wickham. He’d never been able to forge as close a relationship to the nannies or governesses as Darcy. Probably because Darcy had been the young master of the house, while Wickham only a hanger-on, or as whispered in the servant’s quarters, a by blow. Thoughts of Darcy fanned an inner core of rage inside Wickham that never eased. Simply by an accident of birth, proper, stick up his bum, Darcy had stolen from Wickham what ought to have rightfully been his.

Mr. Wickham discarded the jack and took another card from the top of the pile. A queen of hearts. He was experienced enough cards not to let his delight show on his face. Though they were not of the same suit, it was a lovely straight, and that would allow him to make enough of a payment to keep his creditors off of his back for at least a few more weeks. If he didn’t instead spend the bulk on whores, like he had last night after Mr. Smith had retired.

Mr. Smith looked at his cards. His finger paused at tapping on his cheek for a brief second, then resumed. He had pulled something good, but Mr. Wickham had confidence in his own hand.

Mr. Smith started the betting. “One hundred pounds.”

Mr. Wickham made a show of squinting at his cards, but he knew he had the other man. It was only a matter of how much money he wished to take. And Mr. Wickham planned to take it all.

The bets went back and forth until a staggeringly large sum was promised on the table. Then, they agreed to show their cards. Mr. Wickham triumphantly bared his straight. Mr. Smith, his hands trembling, put his cards down with a sudden bright smile. “I got this, old man,” he said. In front of him was the queen, king, and ace of diamonds.

Mr. Wickham cursed his own luck. Calculating the sum on the table against his previous winnings, much of which he had won over the past two days had gone to whiskey and loose women, Mr. Wickham realized he lacked the funds to pay. Nor would any of the local moneylenders extend his credit. In fact, he had taken to avoiding them as their requests for repayment grew increasingly insistent.

Mr. Wickham forced a smile. It was bad luck, pure and simple. The same bad luck that had plagued him throughout his entire life. Luck was a fickle whore who displayed her wares and then after allowing a man the briefest touch, snatched them away and left him holding the bag.

Wickham would have to play another hand and win his money back. He was the better card player, and that, more than luck, would win out.

“You wounded me!” Mr. Wickham said with an exaggerated expression. “At least offer me a chance to win a little of my money back.”

Mr. Smith, who had been nursing the same glass of brandy for most of the evening, raised it to his lips and said, “It was mostly my money, Mr. Wickham, and I think it might be best for me to take my leave at this point.”

“The night is young,” Mr. Wickham said, and though he did his best to feign a casual manner, he heard in his own tone a hint of desperation. “I must have at least one more hand to redeem my honor.”

“Your ability at cards gives me pause,” Mr. Smith said with a laugh. “You have claimed the bulk of the winnings every day since we have met.”

“And it seems your luck is turned,” Mr. Wickham said. “It is I who should ask to the ending things, as another game will force me to pay a visit to my home vault.”

The vault was as imaginary as Mr. Wickham’s country estate, but Mr. Smith had no way of knowing that. And the tension in Mr. Wickham’s chest eased as he noted the gleam of interest in Mr. Smith’s gaze at the mention of the vault.

“Just one more hand,” Mr. Wickham said. “For your honor and mine.”

“As you wish,” Mr. Smith said. “But if we are to play, it should be for more substantial stakes, don’t you think?”

Mr. Wickham, with reckless confidence, downed the last of his whiskey and waved for another glass. “Certainly,” he said. “I am not one to brag of what I possess,” as he possessed nothing of value, “but of my lands, I do have a small country estate. I’ve spoken of it to you before. Pemberley. Such a small country house may not interest someone of your means, and it is not the most ostentatious country homes, but…” Mr. Wickham described his childhood home.

Mr. Wickham would never have dared to make such an assertion had he been playing cards with someone local, but Mr. Smith had only been in London for a short time, and as Mr. Wickham described the French and Christian influences as well as the natural elegance of the estate’s gardens, he fell into his own tale. What made Fitzwilliam Darcy more worthy of inheriting this estate and the rest of his father’s lands than Wickham himself?

They had both grown up together, they had had the same tutors, and hadn’t Wickham also excelled? At least in so far as one could excel at impressing an instructor who only required one regurgitate a simple series of facts and opinions as similarly as possible to the instructor’s own thoughts? Wickham had as much right to Pemberley as Mr. Darcy himself! Only an accident of birth, of luck, that fickle whore, led Mr. Darcy to have everything while Mr. Wickham gnawed at the scraps.

At the least Darcy could have allowed him Georgiana’s dowry.

Mr. Smith leaned forward on his elbows, his chin on his palm as he listened to Wickham’s description of the estate. Mr. Wickham was struck again at the unfortunate mix of features that made Mr. Smith appear at first glance far older and less handsome than his smooth skin and bright, brown eyes suggested. Set beneath heavy brows, the eyes were sharp and almond-shaped. His brows and bushy, unfashionable mustache were a slightly darker color than his thick, sandy-brown hair, which receded at his temples.

When Wickham finished, Mr. Smith said, “I am uncertain I have any lands of equal value. All I can offer is a small sum,” Mr. Smith stated an amount that made Mr. Wickham’s breath catch in his throat.

“Thirty thousand pounds!” Mr. Wickham exclaimed. It was the price of Georgiana’s dowry without the burden of a wife. With that amount of money, he could pay his creditors and live comfortably for the rest of his life. It had been his original plan with Georgiana, if only Darcy had capitulated instead of snatching the girl out from under his nose. Restraining his glee, Mr. Wickham added, “Yes, thirty thousand is acceptable.”

It was a pittance compared to the value of Pemberley, but Mr. Wickham did not care. Pemberley was a mirage. Thirty thousand pounds, earned cleanly at the gambling table, would be enough to pay off Wickham’s creditors, lease a small home, and still have enough set aside to slake his desires for women, wine, and a lifetime’s friendly games of cards.

As the pair engaged in negotiations, some of the other gentleman, officers mostly, had begun to gather around the table.

“Shall we begin?” Mr. Wickham asked.

“Yes.”

They asked for paper to write down what they were offering for the bet.

From his purse, Mr. Wickham took out his most valuable and dangerous possession, a copy of his late father’s seal. The elder Mr. Darcy had been foolish enough to trust Mr. Wickham, his unacknowledged progeny, with free range of his office and papers. Mr. Wickham had stolen and copied the seal after the old man’s death. He didn’t use it often. Possessing such an item could see him jailed or possibly hung. But for special occasions, such as now, it was warranted.

This paper confers upon the bearer the ownership of Pemberley estate.

Mr. Wickham wrote out the relevant information about the estate and pressing the seal to a lump of hot wax at the bottom of the page, sealed the bet.

The cards were dealt.

Wickham looked over his hand. A pair of nines and the two of clubs. It took all of his willpower to keep his fear from showing on his face. If he lost this game, he would have to leave London for good. He might even have to leave England altogether and flee to Scotland.

Mr. Smith stroked his mustache. “If you wish to end this, we can call it a draw and––”

“I’ll see it through.” It was an insult to Wickham’s courage to imply that he should forfeit before the game had even begun. More importantly, he didn’t have the money to pay Mr. Smith his winnings for the last game.

Mr. Smith nodded. He took two cards.

Mr. Wickham discarded the two of clubs and took a new card. He hesitated and then picked it up. Queen of diamonds. A middling hand, but it was unlikely Mr. Smith had much better since he had discarded two of his three cards.

“Shall we?” Mr. Smith asked. As always, his “sh” vibrated a touch too long and pronounced almost near the back of his teeth.

Mr. Wickham laid down his cards. Then he looked across the table at his partner. A pair of nines and the ace of hearts.

Mr. Wickham felt like he was made of wax. His skin was thick and numb, and the surrounding noise was officers clapping Mr. Smith on the shoulder while others avoided looking at Mr. Wickham as they murmured what felt like condolences whispered over his own grave. Mr. Smith took the paper with Wickham’s seal, the rights to an estate Wickham did not own, and folded it into precise quarters.

Luck was a fickle whore, but Mr. Wickham had expected more than this. Perhaps it was galling because the game had been so close. The difference between a queen and an ace.

Mr. Wickham threw back the rest of his whiskey. The buzz was gone, leaving Wickham cold and empty. The faster he got out of here, the better. He stood. “I will leave you to your victory. I would be a fool to tempt fate again for a third time.”

Mr. Smith, in a far more authoritative tone than Mr. Wickham had ever heard from the northerner’s mouth, said, “We will need a private room.”

“No need,” Mr. Wickham demurred.

Mr. Smith stood and walked around the table, extending his hand. Mr. Wickham, having no polite way to avoid his opponent, clasped it. This close, the slight twitch at the corners of Mr. Smith’s lips and the glitter in his once soft brown eyes seemed sinister. The edge of his mustache seemed to curl up from his skin as though it was pasted on and not grown from his own flesh.

What in the devil?

In a low tone, Mr. Smith said, “We have much to discuss.”

The accent, which Mr. Wickham had mistaken for some ill-disguised northern brogue, had thickened. Now, it sounded almost Continental. That perfect French pronunciation he had used earlier in the game.

“You’re a—”

“A man of means,” Mr. Smith said. “One who has much to offer and much he can take away from an ambitious man. Or shall we instead leave now so I might claim my estate of…what was the name…Pemberley?”

Mr. Wickham’s mouth was dry. Stealing away a dead man’s seal and using it to give away an estate one did not own was enough of a crime to see him hanged. And Darcy, already against him, would be vengeful in his rage at the discovery of Wickham’s audacity.

“We can talk,” Mr. Wickham said.

Mr. Smith grinned. “Excellent.”

Stepping away from Mr. Wickham, but not letting go of his man’s hand, Mr. Smith called out again for a private room.

The edge of Mr. Smith’s mustache was definitely peeling. It was subtle, and Wickham doubted anyone else would notice, but the mustache, like everything else about this man bothered him. Who was Mr. Smith?

As he followed Mr. Smith up the stairs to the private room he had requested, Mr. Wickham feared his question would be answered all too soon.

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Chapter 5

Despite Mr. Bennet’s initial recalcitrance, he called on Mr. Bingley almost immediately, and Mr. Bingley returned his call with a visit of his own a few days later. Though Mrs. Bennet tried to have Elizabeth stay in the study, the visit had nothing to do with code craft and so Mr. Bennet sent Lizzie to wait with her sisters.

“Once Mr. Bingley has left must get your father to tell us everything about the young gentleman,” Mrs. Bennet insisted. “Mr. Bennet can hide nothing from you, nor does he wish to.”

Elizabeth was less certain of that supposition. Nor did she have any desire to learn more about Mr. Bingley, who she had determined must have a similar temperament to his close and irritating friend, Mr. Darcy.

An hour after Mr. Bingley had left, with arms linked and Mrs. Bennet’s hand atop her daughter’s arm to keep her daughter from attempting to flee, Mrs. Bennet led Elizabeth into the study. “Lizzie, you must help your father complete that cipher. No dawdling.”

“I can walk on my own,” Elizabeth said.

Mrs. Bennet ignored her.

When they entered, Mr. Bennet stood in front of the window by his desk with his cane in his right hand.

“My dear! How delightful it must have been for you to receive company!”

“I suppose you wish to ask about Mr. Bingley.”

“Why, Mr. Bennet, I would never presume, but as you have brought up the subject—”

“He is a fine young man with pleasant manners.”

“And handsome?”

“I could hardly be trusted to give such an opinion, now could I?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet! Your eyes are not failing so much as that! Was he fair or dark? Large or thin? He appeared from the window to have wide shoulders and an easy gait.”

“Are you wishing our daughters to marry the young stallion or race him?”

Elizabeth smothered a laugh.

“Mr. Bennet!”

“He is young enough and fit enough I suspect for both endeavors.”

“Must you always reduce things to jest?” Mrs. Bennet coughed furiously. “This conversation is not fit for a young lady’s ears.”

“Then I will spare you further humor, my dear,” Mr. Bennet said. “For you are as fair as the day I married you, and I would not ask you to age a day.”

“Well!” Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands at her throat. “Oh, my dear Mr. Bennet.”

Elizabeth averted her gaze. Her father was never needlessly cruel, but she sensed some manipulation in his compliments. Perhaps it was because of the traits he valued, beauty had become—with the deterioration of his eyesight—the least important to him.

Still, it made Mrs. Bennet happy, and that happiness eased some of the tension between mother and daughter. For that, Elizabeth was relieved.

Mrs. Bennet attempted to pull a few more details about the gentleman from her husband, but it was in vain. Eventually, in a flurry of movement and chatter, she left again.

Elizabeth went to the shelf and took down some of her and her father’s notes on previously solved and common keys for substitution ciphers. She dropped the books on the desk with a satisfying thump before beginning to page through them.

“And you, Lizzie, did you have questions about young Mr. Bingley?”

“He is a friend of Mr. Darcy’s, is he not?”

“Mr. Darcy is staying at Netherfield Park as Mr. Bingley’s guest.”

“Then there is nothing more I need to know.”

“You should not let this Mr. Darcy irritate you so,” Mr. Bennet said.

“It is fortunate I dislike him. If he were a gentleman in manner as well as inheritance, then for fear of breaking my mother’s heart at the possibility of a good match, I would feel badly for letting him learn of my eccentricities,” Elizabeth said bitterly.

“Eccentricities?”

“Most men do not search for ciphering in a wife.” Even if Mrs. Bennet had not insisted on telling Elizabeth such at every available opportunity, Mr. John Dunn, her first suitor, had taught her how damaging to her prospects sharing her love of codes and ciphers could be.

“A woman may play with puzzles, but for heaven’s sake, no more talk of war. Such missives are not appropriate for a lady or a wife.”

Jane had grabbed and held Elizabeth’s arm before she could smack him, and then later that evening, Jane held Elizabeth as she cried.

It was fortunate then, that Elizabeth despised Mr. Darcy. His dismissal of her had been irritating, but since she had no hope or interest of a match with him, she was free to prove herself and, without physical violence, remove that expression of smug coldness from his face.

Mr. Bennet said, “Lizzie, you are a diamond of the first order. If a man cannot recognize that, it is his failing, not yours.”

Elizabeth swallowed. Her father was sometimes selfish in his jests, but he loved her, and, almost as importantly, he understood her.

Unfortunately, he was also wrong.

To secure a husband, Elizabeth would have to play the fool and hide her own abilities. It didn’t preclude a love match, which was her true desire. After she had achieved her husband’s regard in other areas, she would reveal her ciphering. Society expected a man and woman to marry knowing little about each other. Every person had their secrets. Love was born of an instinctive understanding of another’s character. She would do better to abandon the foolish hope of finding a husband who encouraged her less acceptable interests. It was foolishness, plain and simple.

“Papa, would you have chosen a wife who could decipher as well as you?”

Mr. Bennet laughed. “Dear Lizzie, I doubt any woman could decipher as well as myself, excepting you, who are a part of my flesh and blessed with a youngster’s eyes.”

Definitely impossible.

Elizabeth flipped through the books quickly. None of the standard keys had yielded results or inspiration, a surprise to neither her nor her father.

Over the following week, Elizabeth split her time between a slew of decoding requests from Sir Drake’s office and Mr. Darcy’s cipher.

Though the afternoons held the brisk, watery sunlight that Elizabeth found ideal for walking, even during those sabbaticals, Mr. Darcy’s letter dominated her every sense. She would solve it and prove to the prig that she was not merely an ornament, but a capable and intelligent if not a proper woman.

Latin substitution ciphers were relatively simple, each word a replacement for a letter in the alphabet. Of course, it depended on the alphabet. This letter had been addressed to Mr. Darcy’s younger sister. An educated young lady of her age was likely to know French, Latin, and English at the least. Considering the letter had come from France and was written in mock Latin, English was the most likely language for the message to be written in.

Elizabeth first determined which words in the Latin “prayer” appeared most frequently, and assigned them a common letter: S, R, E, L, O, and T. Then through various iterations, tried to get a sense of what the message might be. It was complicated by a lack of punctuation or sign of spaces between words, not to mention the splotches of water on the final two pages.

Every day, after they finished their official work, Elizabeth read out each trial to her father, and they discussed the possibilities for the message’s content until Mr. Bennet dozed off. Then Elizabeth continued on her own, and, through brute force, she managed to make sense of the first half.

Piissimus dominus

Illustrator iudex

Auctor magnus

Incompraehensibilis pacificus

Optimus iudex

Omnipotens redemptor

Gloriosus immortalis

Imperator fabricator

Opifex conditor

Misericors sempiternus

Rex iudex

Sempiternus maximus

Optimus clemens

Aeternus deus

Sempiternus opifex

Fabricator magnus

Aeternus dominus

Rector clementissimus

Dominus fabricator

Redemptor optimus

Dominus clementissimus

Misericors redemptor

Redemptor dominus

Incompraehensibilis dominator

Illustrator sapientissimus

Magnus conseruator…

DELIUERTHISTOLORDCUNNINGHAMANDREMEMBERTHEBUTTERFLIESFrom there it was lines and lines of gibberish, further confused by an increasing number of water-stained words on the final two pages, rendering the last few lines illegible.

UUPBMOAKERZYFOLRACDBUKPLDABOUILALBOUAILTIBATOHUETTELIKEPOUBAMAKELEAUSSUIFRE

Elizabeth penned out a letter outlining her initial progress. It was frustrating to have to take so long with it. The codes used by their own agents were more regular, and perhaps Elizabeth had grown complacent with the ease of solving them. Worse, the second half of this cipher looked like a different code altogether. Whoever Lord Cunningham was likely had the key on hand. Elizabeth doubted it concerned Miss Darcy at all, but she had promised herself she would decipher the entire thing, and giving up halfway felt like admitting defeat.

She tried running the remaining text through various shift and substitution ciphers, but without a hint as to the method of encoding, it was a like throwing horseshoes blind. Frequency yielded little insight. Elizabeth’s eyes were burning when Jane stepped into Mr. Bennet’s study and called the pair for dinner.

“Huh?” Mr. Bennet sat up suddenly. His glasses sat askew on his nose, and he adjusted them. “What time is it?”

“Dinner, father,” Jane said. “You worked through tea. How goes Mr. Darcy’s puzzle?”

Elizabeth looked down at her scrawled notes. “Soon,” she said. “The first half is done.”

Jane smiled. “That is good news. I gave you and Papa as much time as possible, but our mother and sisters await us.”

Elizabeth stood and stretched her arms over her head as her joints cracked. Outside the window, the rosy orange of sunset kissed the horizon. Now Elizabeth was not caught up in the cipher, she realized she had become quite chilly.

“Go ahead with your sister,” Mr. Bennet said. “I will straighten up in here.”

Which was Mr. Bennet’s excuse to forestall sitting at the table and being subjected to his wife and daughters’ girlish chatter for as long as possible.

“Yes, Father,” Elizabeth said, and linking arms with her sister, they walked together from the study.

As they entered the dining room, Lydia and Kitty were both flushed with excitement, their voices high and fast as they spoke to Mrs. Bennet, who leaned forward with interest, and Mary, who sat back ramrod-straight with her hands folded on her lap.

“Madame Godiva said my future husband has hair like the sun, and that I would meet him soon.”

“She said your fate was entwined with a man with bright blond hair—” Kitty interrupted.

“Of course!” Lydia exclaimed, tapping her palm on the table. The china rattled. “That gentleman is my future husband. Why else would my fate be entwined with a strange and handsome man?”

Mrs. Bennet nodded eagerly. “I have heard from some of the ladies in the village that Madame Godiva has some Gypsy blood, and this allows her these visions.”

“She did not say. But—”

“I think you should be more cautious, sister,” Mary interrupted. “Does not the Bible warn us of becoming enamored of false idols?”

“I do not intend to worship the woman,” Lydia retorted with exasperation. “I merely state she has a gift. I told you about the buggy accident.”

Elizabeth glanced at Jane, who gave a minute shake of her head.

Lydia, seeing that her two oldest sisters had joined them, exclaimed, “Good and finally, you are here. I am famished. Where is Father?”

“Coming.”

Lydia breathed out sharply through her nose. “I wish he would hurry. We are having Cornish hens with blackberry sauce.”

“You were telling us about Madame Godiva,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“Yes! Yes! Kitty and I, as has become our custom, went to pay a visit to the soldiers in town, and that is where we met Madame Godiva. She has a gift!”

The door to the dining room opened again, and Mr. Bennet entered. He stood straight and tall, barely leaning on the ornate wooden cane in his right hand. It was an unacknowledged truth in the household that Mr. Bennet used the cane more to ensure he did not trip over any small objects in the halls rather than to steady his gait. He glared in Lydia’s general direction and said, “What is this ruckus? I thought we were having dinner.”

“Mr. Bennet!” Mrs. Bennet crossed the room and linked her arm through her husband’s free one. “It is a joy to see you up and about.”

“I am often up and about as there is nothing wrong with my legs,” Mr. Bennet responded crossly.

“Or your stomach, I suspect. Girls, say good evening to your father. I will have the first course brought in.”

Elizabeth and Jane took their seats at the table while Lydia explained again in a rush about her discovery of Madame Godiva and what the fortune teller had shared about Lydia’s future prospects.”

Mr. Bennet asked, “How much did she charge you?”

“Nothing, Father! Madame Godiva stepped out of her shop, and when her gaze met mine, I was transfixed. Her eyes are two different shades of green, one bright and the other dark. And when her eyes caught mine, a curious sensation passed over me, as though the fierceness of her gaze had tickled something in my soul.”

“I should hope you didn’t laugh too hard,” Mr. Bennet said, his lips twitching with amusement at his own joke. “A tickling of the soul can be overwhelming.”

“Papa!”

Mrs. Bennet asked, “What did this Madame Godiva tell you?”

“She said an inner revelation had compelled her to step out from her wagon, and that same impulse drew her to me. Me! She said she should like to read my palm, and I told her I had no extra coin, but she insisted. She said for one with her gifts, the compulsion to right a wrong sometimes took over her limbs and she had no choice but to do as her gift demanded.”

Now Elizabeth was intrigued. “Which wrong did she need to correct?”

“I could only imagine it was that horrible Mr. Darcy and how abysmally he treated me when he called on us. I hope Mr. Bingley is of a better temperament! Papa says he is a gentleman, but there are different types of gentlemen.”

Elizabeth nodded.

Lydia sighed, and then resting her fork on her plate, continued. “But Madame Godiva led me into her wagon, and it was the most remarkable place, with bright red and gold curtains and a sweet incense that made me almost feel lightheaded.”

“You went with her on your own?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“What harm could she do? I had no money, and she was alone. Just one small, old woman and her wagon with all of her worldly possessions.”

“One small woman who you saw, and who knew how many other compatriots!” Mr. Bennet interjected. “I do not approve of you and Kitty going so far on your own. Not if you refuse to exercise such basic caution as to not throw yourself willy-nilly into a stranger’s wagon.”

“Oh, Mr. Bennet! Your fatherly regard and care for your daughters is without bound,” Mrs. Bennet said in a vain attempt to soothe her husband’s ire. “But two young ladies cannot be forced to spend all of their time indoors, constrained to the bounds of our estate.”

“I should think it would be easier on your nerves to know with confidence that all of your daughters are safe,” Mr. Bennet said dryly.

“Oh! And now you remind me of my nerves. Mr. Bennet, will nothing satisfy you beyond my accompanying Lydia and Kitty on their next excursion into town?” Before Mr. Bennet could respond, Mrs. Bennet continued, “Of course, nothing would satisfy you. I must accompany my daughters and witness this woman’s gifts for myself. Tomorrow. The assembly is in a fortnight, and we will have much in small essentials to acquire in any case. Mary will also join us.”

Mary’s head shot up. “Mother! I do not wish to consort with false idols.”

“Oh, calm yourself, Mary. She is a fortune teller, not a Biblical plague. We will stop at the music shop after she has told you something useful about your future and you can look over the sheet music.”

“Yes, Mother,” Mary pressed her lips together and stabbed her half-eaten meat with her fork.

“And Lizzie and Jane as well.”

Elizabeth looked up from her plate. She was not to be so easily persuaded by sheet music and platitudes. “I am satisfied with my existing gowns and bonnets for the Saturday assembly.”

“Satisfied! Well, that is hardly enough. All five of you, unmarried, and you will present only a satisfying appearance to Mr. Bingley. Should we play our hand correctly, he will certainly choose one of you as his wife.”

“If Mr. Bingley has hair like the sun,” Lydia said, “perhaps he is the man my fate is entwined with.”

“A man with hair like the sun is neither specific nor unique,” Mr. Bennet said. “How is it you are so convinced of this woman’s gifts?”

“Because of the cart. She said an unexpected calamity would slow our journey from town, but that all would work out by the evening. And our cart… the wheel was caught in the mud as we left town. I feared it was a broken axle, as did the driver, but a young officer—”

“And a handsome one,” Kitty interjected.

“His hair was brown,” Lydia said dismissively. “He helped extricate our cart, and we were able from that point to return home. So you understand, this was a sign of Madame Godiva’s power. She can see the future, and I believe I will soon meet the man I will marry.”

Mr. Bennet said, “So long as you are properly supervised and expect only your allowance to spend on her services, I suppose it’s no more of a frippery than another bonnet or dress.”

“Oh, Mr. Bennet!” Mrs. Bennet clutched her hands to her chest. “We must use all methods at our disposal before a woman of lesser quality than our daughters snatches this fine, available young gentleman away from us.”

“And if this Mr. Bingley is of a similar character to Mr. Darcy?”

“Impossible,” Lydia said, placing her knife in the joint of the hen’s wing and cutting viciously. “That stiff and insufferable man is one of a kind.”

Elizabeth was inclined to agree.

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In Mr. Bingley’s small but cozy library, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley occupied armchairs at a polite remove. They were technically chaperoned, though Miss. Caroline’s maid sat on the other side of the room with a book in her lap. She stared intently at the pages, even venturing to flip one every couple of minutes.

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Madame Godiva’s leased home was at the edge of the main thoroughfare. The house was small, eighteen feet in front with a small yard in the back where her wagon was presumably settled. As they approached the door, it opened, and a small, simply dressed young housemaid answered. “I will inform Madame her guests have arrived.”

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Elizabeth could describe her beginnings at Netherfield Park as discouraging. As she explained her reason for paying such a sudden visit, she was well and truly discomfited by the combined pressure of the Bingleys’, Hursts’, and Mr. Darcy’s attention. Especially Mr. Darcy, whose expression was as cold as ever but somehow made worse by his obvious interest in the state of her soggy hems. Or perhaps it was her face, flushed from the three-mile walk.

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Elizabeth had little fondness for Miss Caroline Bingley, but her stories of London balls brought a light to Jane’s countenance that Elizabeth grudgingly appreciated. Jane’s illness still made her weak and inclined towards falling asleep, sometimes midway through speaking, but she was looking better as the day progressed. The treatments were helping, along with the honeyed porridge Mr. Darcy had sent. Despite her animosity towards him, Elizabeth appreciated his efforts.

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Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher
Mr. Darcy's Cipher Cover

A secret letter brings them together. Will an assassin tear them apart?

For Miss Elizabeth Bennet, love is the cipher she cannot crack.

Outside the Longbourn house, Elizabeth Bennet is an ordinary country miss. But in secret, she and her father crack codes to foil Napoleon’s schemes against England. More than anything, Elizabeth wants to be loved for herself, but how can she when she lives a double life?

For Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a coded letter hides the key to his heart.

After Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brother is killed in France, a coded letter carries his final words and a dangerous secret. Mr. Darcy brings the letter to the Bennets for answers. But soon the code is the least of Mr. Darcy’s conundrums as he finds himself falling for Elizabeth Bennet. Caught between an assassin and an old enemy, can Mr. Darcy accept his feelings and win Miss Elizabeth’s heart before it is too late?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Cipher, Book 1 of the Spies and Prejudice series. Mr. Darcy’s Cipher is a Pride and Prejudice variation with heaps of romance, humor, suspense, code-cracking, and two sometimes bullheaded but lovable leads who struggle to save a nation while falling in love. 

If you love Pride and Prejudice variations with a twist of espionage, start reading Mr. Darcy’s Cipher now!

Chapter 2

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

For a moment, Darcy considered telling a falsehood, but even if he had been inclined towards lying, which he decidedly was not, an imaginary wife would be quickly disproven as he intended to stay an extended time in Hertfordshire. Still, it irked him to see the pointed curiosity and catlike hunger in Mrs. Bennet’s gaze as she fished to find out if he was wed. “I am not as yet married,” Mr. Darcy said after a pause.

“Oh! A regretful state for a man such as yourself!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed with ill-hidden delight. “A wife brings tranquility and joy to a home. I trust you will be allowed leave enough to enjoy the hospitality of our town. There are many young ladies about who might capture your interest…”

Like her daughter, or however many daughters occupied this house, which now through acquaintanceship with their father he might be obligated to offer his attention. “If I might speak with Mr. Bennet,” Darcy interjected. “I wrote to arrange this visit. It is business of the utmost urgency.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Bennet said. “I will let him know you have arrived.” And with that, she swept out.

It was odd and not at all pleasant to be abandoned in the parlor of a stranger. Though compared to Mrs. Bennet’s inquiries, Darcy’s own dark thoughts were an improvement. His brother Reginald’s final correspondence, much of it pages and pages of nonsense Latin, some blurred by water, weighed on his heart.

Reginald Darcy had died in France five months ago. The letter, water-stained and crushed at the corners where the envelope had been battered about for some time, was a voice whispering from the grave. Not that Darcy had seen his brother’s actual resting place. Water and time had too ravaged his body for transport, especially considering the relations between England and France.

Reggie, lighthearted and at points irreverent Reggie, had lost his life not by an enemy bullet or sword, but instead to a knife in the dark. Murdered by a cutpurse, stripped of his valuables, and left putrefying in the sewer until only his watch remained to identify him.

Why the thief hadn’t stolen that and his purse was another mystery Darcy found himself ill-equipped to solve.

Darcy took the watch from his pocket and flipped it open. Half three. What was taking Mrs. Bennet so long?

Darcy wondered again if accompanying Bingley to guest at his new estate was a good decision. Mr. Erasmus Bennet was reputed to be one of the finest codebreakers in England, though if that were the case, it made little sense for him to hole himself up so far from London.

It hardly mattered. The code would have been something Georgiana could decipher. It shouldn’t have required a master codebreaker, and it quite annoyed Darcy that he hadn’t worked it out on his own.

Of all the times for Reggie to be obscure in his presentation.

Reggie, like Wickham, possessed an easy charm, though unlike Wickham, Reggie’s interests lay beyond gambling and tupping unsuspecting young women. Reggie had been intelligent, kind, and daring to a fault.

He had also, apparently by the multiple pages of Latin in the letter, been eager to convince Georgiana he found solace in religion on the Continent. Or converted to Catholicism, heaven forbid! Knowing his younger brother, Darcy doubted a sudden turn towards the devout. Reggie had always been more inclined to the flesh than spirit, mischievous with an easy grin, even as a babe in swaddling clothes.

It was difficult to accept he would never see his brother smile, or frown, or throw himself with reckless abandon into the boxing ring again.

Reggie’s letter was addressed to Georgiana, but Darcy could not bear to give it to her without understanding it. First their father’s death, then Wickham’s betrayal, and now Reggie’s senseless murder. Darcy was not a man inclined towards light humor, and the crushing weight of tragedy and crisis had weighted his already serious nature.

Georgiana was fragile, though she hid it behind her manners and a brave smile. Georgiana had loved Reggie, and her mourning of his passing set her mood as black as her clothing these past five months. Reggie and Georgie, as they called each other, were close in temperament, while Darcy, aware of his responsibilities from a young age, had always felt an obligation to watch out for them and ensure they understood and followed the rules.

Darcy’s own protectiveness had led him to read his brother’s letter to Georgiana. Protectiveness and some hidden vein of jealousy he refused to acknowledge even to himself. Georgiana looked towards Darcy for protection, but there had always been a barrier between them. This was the same barrier that kept Darcy apart from the world.

The lady of the house, Mrs. Bennet, finally returned. “This way, Mr. Darcy,” she said. “How long will you be with us in Meryton? Not too short a visit, I hope?”

“A month at the least,” Mr. Darcy admitted. “I was invited to stay as a guest of Mr. Bingley.”

“Of Netherfield Park! How wonderful!”

They had arrived just yesterday evening, but the local rumor mill had likely been churning about Bingley since the news of his having leased the place reached the ears of the local solicitor’s wife. A young, single man of good fortune was always prized. Darcy was lucky in that as a late addition to Bingley’s party, the locals did not yet know of his ten thousand pounds.

Mrs. Bennet led Mr. Darcy into a small, chilly study. The windows were wide, letting in a fair amount of sunlight, and one was open, letting in a cold, unpleasant breeze. On a chaise diagonally set from the window, behind a low wooden table scattered with various papers, sat a stocky, older man. His thick, gray hair receded at the temples, and a pair of thick spectacles balanced on his nose. Presumably, this was Mr. Bennet, and beside him, the young, unmarried daughter of the house who Mrs. Bennet had likely insisted dress and rush into the study to sit as though she often spent time there.

Mr. Darcy was having none of it.

The young woman was admittedly handsome with black, lustrous curls tied up in a knot at the nape of her neck and dark eyes that were her best feature, hinting at least some intelligence as her gaze met his. Her hands, partially encased in dull-brown fingerless mitts, bunched in the skirts of her dress in her lap. It was an odd, nervous habit that Darcy did not admire.

“Mr. Bennet, our guest, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, is arrived. Mr. Darcy, may I introduce you to my husband, Mr. Bennet, and our daughter, Elizabeth.”

Mr. Bennet and his daughter stood and Mr. Darcy bowed to both. As Miss Elizabeth grasped her skirts to curtsy, Mr. Darcy looked more closely at her hands and noted a speckled discoloration on the fabric above the knuckle of her index finger.

Perhaps her presence here wasn’t a pure fabrication. Likely she performed clerical tasks for her father, though why he could not hire a secretary of his own Mr. Darcy could not determine. Was the Bennet family in such dire straits that Mr. Bennet could not afford one? Or perhaps, or likely, Mr. Bennet was cautious, considering the sensitive materials he was rumored to handle on behalf of the prime minister.

It hardly mattered. Mr. Bennet could not intend for his daughter to remain here for the entirety of their meeting.

“A pleasure, Miss Bennet,” Mr. Darcy said. “I wouldn’t expect you to bore yourself this fine afternoon entangling yourself in the complications of your father’s deciphering.”

“While I enjoy a brisk walk on an afternoon such as this one, it would be better if I remain at my father’s side, Mr. Darcy.”

Well, wasn’t Miss Bennet forward? Though she didn’t act in the slightest bit coquettish. More annoyed. Mr. Darcy was taken aback. “Surely the intricacies of codes and ciphers are not the domain of a properly raised young lady,” he protested.

“Lizzie,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, stepping over to her daughter’s side and grabbing her by the arm. “Perhaps we should leave Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy to their conversation.”

Mrs. Bennet gave her daughter’s arm a none too subtle tug, but the younger Bennet stood firm. “If I could look over the code you have brought, we might determine the capabilities of a woman of my upbringing.”

Mr. Darcy was overcome by the sudden realization he had erred. Severely.

Miss Bennet’s dark eyes shone with indignation. “If I may,” Miss Bennet held out her hand, palm up. Having a clear view of the appendage, Mr. Darcy realized the mitts contained not merely a single discoloration, but an accumulation of ink speckles and stains that had seeped into the fabric over a long period of time.

“Are you studied in liturgical Latin?” Mr. Darcy asked with an attempt at greater politeness. Judging by the lady’s expression, the attempt was unsuccessful.

Miss Bennet’s lips tightened to a pale line that only highlighted the high color in her cheeks and flush over her forehead. She said, “I am studied enough.”

“If we might take a look,” Mr. Bennet added, the corners of his lips twitching with something like amusement. It was a more welcoming expression than his daughter’s, who was still furious. Ultimately, whatever jest the elder Bennet was enjoying, Mr. Darcy was clearly the butt of it.

“Mr. Bennet?” Mrs. Bennet tried to meet her husband’s gaze, but Mr. Bennet kept his attention fixed on Mr. Darcy.

Having no other polite option, Mr. Darcy handed the letter over.

A soft knock sounded at the door. “That must be Mrs. Hill about refreshments,” Mrs. Bennet said, referring to the housekeeper with exaggerated cheer. “I’ll just step outside to speak with her. How do you take your tea, Mr. Darcy?”

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Chapter 3

Mr. Darcy might be possessed of handsome features and fine manners, but little else recommended him. Elizabeth Bennet could not and did not wish to contain her fury as she took Mr. Darcy’s letter and opened it.

The letter began: My dearest Georgiana…

“This letter is not addressed to you,” Elizabeth remarked.

“My late brother. Reginald Darcy, sent this to our younger sister.”

Elizabeth knew she ought to feel some charitable sentiment for a man who had recently lost a brother, but considering how dismissive Mr. Darcy had been of her and her capabilities—just the slightest hair of being outright rude—Elizabeth could not muster the emotion. “My condolences,” she said stiffly.

“Thank you,” Mr. Darcy said, his voice as flat as her own.

If this were a young man in mourning, he took care to hide such emotions from those around him. More likely, he did not possess much familial regard at all.

No. That was unfair. She hardly knew the man. Still, however Mr. Darcy mourned, or did not, stealing away his own sister’s correspondence did not incline Elizabeth to think well of him.

“If your late brother sent your sister a message in some form of code, would it not make sense to assume she had the tools to decipher it?” Elizabeth asked.

Mr. Darcy’s expression froze for the briefest moment. “It is because my sister might decipher it that I have brought it to your father’s attention first. My sister Georgiana and my brother Reginald were close. It has been five months since his passing, and she is only beginning to step out of her deep mourning. For the first month, she did not smile, and she hardly ate. As her guardian, I must see to her well-being of the body, mind, and spirit.”

Elizabeth weighed Mr. Darcy’s explanation. Devotion to family, to especially a beloved sister, was something Elizabeth understood all too well. Though her own sister was the elder, Elizabeth had always been protective of Jane’s happiness. Jane had a sweetness of temperament that brought joy to every room, but there was also a fragility to it. Like the bloom of a prize rose, subtle alterations to the soil and air could harm its petals or keep it held tight in bud until it withered and fell.

“And if this letter’s contents are something innocuous?” Elizabeth asked.

“Then I will seal it and pass along it with your father’s translations to Georgiana immediately. I do not intend to hide our brother’s last words from her, but to ensure that they do not add to her grief.”

And yet, while Elizabeth understood the urge to protect, she did not, in her heart, agree that Mr. Darcy had the right of it. Did not Georgiana have a right to her own grief?

A difficult tangle and one Elizabeth was not charged to decipher.

Thankfully, Mr. Bennet interrupted her musings with a practical question. “Is the entire letter in code?”

“No,” Mr. Darcy said. “The first page is ordinary pleasantries, and Reggie shares—” Mr. Darcy swallowed. It was the only concession in his manner to what Elizabeth was beginning to suspect was a far deeper grief than his general demeanor suggested. “He shared small ordinary details of his life in the French capital. Nothing, as far as I can ascertain, relating to the Emperor’s designs or movements. And the latter pages were wet. Some words are almost indecipherable even if they made sense before.”

Elizabeth skimmed over those pages, trying hard not to feel like a voyeur picking over the silhouette of another man’s remains. Nothing immediately caught her eye as a code key. No letters were oddly capitalized or written in a different style. Nor were other simple tricks used. The first letter of each paragraph spelled nothing; neither did the last.

Still, for Mr. Darcy’s brother to be in the French capital at all suggested something deeper at play. Through assisting her father, Elizabeth well knew that both Bonaparte and the prime minister employed at points less than honorable means of getting information about their opponents. War was far messier than what the officers in their sharp regimentals shared when flirting with young ladies. But if Reginald Darcy was doing special, secret work for the crown, it would do no good for Elizabeth to suggest such a thing to his grieving and overly constrained older brother. Not without more than a suspicion. The letter continued.

Admittedly, my dearest sister, there is more to life here than the acquisition of pastry. I have found points only the comfort of the Almighty can offer a degree of solace. Sometimes it is only the hand of the Lord who can comfort and protect us in times of trouble.

After that, it was as Mr. Darcy described. Two pages of neatly scribed Latin, formatted as though it was a prayer.

It began:

 

Piissimus dominus

Illustrator iudex

Auctor magnus

Incompraehensibilis pacificus

Optimus iudex

Omnipotens redemptor

Gloriosus immortalis

Imperator fabricator

Opifex conditor

Misericors sempiternus

Rex iudex…

 

The words were nonsense. At first, Elizabeth thought it might be a Latin Gibberish cipher, but nothing was spelled backwards with false Latin suffixes. Maybe it was an Ave Maria cipher with each letter a faux Latin word, Elizabeth surmised. But lacking the key, deciphering it would take work, not even considering the later water-damaged sections.

Elizabeth handed the letter to her father and outlined for the pair of them what she had seen, suggesting only at the end she believed it was likely there was a cipher at work, but not one easily unraveled in an afternoon.

A knock sounded at the study door. “Mr. Bennet?” Before any of the room’s occupants could respond, the door opened, and Mrs. Bennet stepped inside. “A light dinner is ready if Mr. Darcy would like to join us when you have finished your business.”

Elizabeth glanced at the clock. It was a quarter to four. They took dinner at four thirty and tea after. Mrs. Hill must have been working like a dervish to have a dinner together so early for the Bennet household.

“I could not impose,” Mr. Darcy said stiffly. They took dinner at six thirty in the city. Was Mr. Darcy looking down his nose at the Bennets for having such country hours?

Mr. Bennet nodded. “You may leave the letter in our care, Mr. Darcy, and I shall write to you when the translation is complete. I will fit it in between my other work as Bonaparte and his disciples do not wait for our convenience to make their moves.”

“Yes. I have heard your skills are in great demand from many sources. And my brother is long passed. This is for my peace, and my sister’s peace, entirely.”

“Shall I direct my missive to the address from which you wrote before?”

“For the duration of the holidays, I will stay as a guest with Mr. Charles Bingley, who has recently leased the nearby estate at Netherfield Park.” Mr. Darcy looked resigned. “It should be a simple thing to send any necessary correspondence there.”

“But that is such a short distance!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. “You must return here to discuss the contents of your brother’s correspondence when my husband has finished his work.”

Another knock, and Lydia, her voice pitched higher in an attempt at flirtation, said through the door, “Mother! Are you there?”

“Yes, my dear,” Mrs. Bennet went to the door and opened it. “Lydia,” she admonished with no especial fervor in her tone. “You know better than to interrupt your father while he is working.”

Lydia had dressed speedily but with obvious attention to flirting with a young gentleman. Her hair was arranged in perfect ringlets peeking from beneath her bonnet, and her dress was a pale yellow that highlighted her light blue eyes. Unlike Elizabeth, whose mitts were dark beige speckled with ink, Lydia’s were the same white silk she wore when attending a local assembly. She smiled at Mr. Darcy and looked up at him through her lashes. “Papa, I apologize for disturbing you. And your guest.”

“We had just asked Mr. Darcy to enjoy his luncheon with us,” Mrs. Bennet said brightly. “Mr. Darcy, how do you take your tea?”

Mr. Darcy did not acknowledge Mrs. Bennet’s invitation the second time. Instead, he inclined his head towards each of them and said, “I must take my leave. Thank you, again.”

“Lydia!” Mrs. Bennet called to her daughter. “Will you show Mr. Darcy to the door?”

“Yes, Mother!” Lydia said with delight. She managed to get ahead of the taciturn gentleman. “This way. Are you fond of dancing, Mr. Darcy?”

Mrs. Bennet rubbed the thumb of her right hand along the ridge of the other as she left to follow the pair at enough of a distance as to maintain the illusion of propriety.

After they had gone, Elizabeth muttered. “I wish Lydia the best with him.”

Mr. Bennet smiled. “So you, like my wife, would wish Mr. Darcy to become a member of our family?”

“I’d rather marry his horse!” Elizabeth stated with vehemence. “And you know how I despise riding.”

“A horse can be led by the reins. A man…” Mr. Bennet laughed, and after a moment, Elizabeth joined him.

Still, Elizabeth’s mirth felt hollow. It disturbed her to have been so affected by the man. Granted, her primary emotion concerning Mr. Darcy had been dislike. She tried to tell herself it spurred from his disdain for her abilities. But others had disbelieved her skills in cracking ciphers. None had spurred such instant fury.

As the laughter died, Elizabeth took a second piece of paper and a pen for notes, but her mind was occupied with the first mystery of why Mr. Darcy had affected her so.

“Will you read that out for me?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“Yes, Father.” Elizabeth started to read, but her mind wasn’t on the code.

Mr. Darcy’s handsome features had tricked Elizabeth into expecting more from him, she concluded. That was her mistake, not his. At least his rational desire to flee had spared them all an awkward meal.

That night, in their shared bedroom, Jane sat down on the edge of Elizabeth’s bed. “So is Mr. Darcy as terrible as Lydia says?” she asked in a hushed tone.

Elizabeth initial thought was to give a quick yes, but in only the company of her favorite sister, she could not state the man had been wholly terrible. “He was cold, and at points short-tempered, and he dismissed my abilities, but…”

“Usually you are not so restrained in your opinions, Elizabeth. Did you find him handsome?” Jane added, “Lydia found him very handsome. And rude. And generally awful.”

“He was handsome.” Not that it mattered, considering the nature of their meeting and his temperament. “Like a marble statue and with about as much warmth. I doubt his lips have experienced a smile in all of his years of life. His face would likely shatter into a dozen pieces if he tried.”

“You are incorrigible,” Jane said with a laugh.

Elizabeth joined her sister in laughing. But even in her shared levity, Elizabeth could not help wondering why she couldn’t erase the intensity of Mr. Darcy’s gaze from her mind and how it might soften his features if he smiled.

 

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Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 4-5

It was not Mr. Wickham’s first evening at the gambling hell known as “the Danny house,” but it had been, by far, his best. An excellent supper filled his belly, and his skin hummed with the pleasant warmth of first-rate whiskey while the taste of an outstanding cigar settled comfortably at the back of his tongue.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 6-7

In Mr. Bingley’s small but cozy library, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley occupied armchairs at a polite remove. They were technically chaperoned, though Miss. Caroline’s maid sat on the other side of the room with a book in her lap. She stared intently at the pages, even venturing to flip one every couple of minutes.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 8-9

On the morning of the Assembly, heavy rain pattered against the roof, making the day as gray and troubling as Elizabeth’s mood. She rechecked her deciphering with her father and penned an urgent letter to the prime minister’s office.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 12-13

Madame Godiva’s leased home was at the edge of the main thoroughfare. The house was small, eighteen feet in front with a small yard in the back where her wagon was presumably settled. As they approached the door, it opened, and a small, simply dressed young housemaid answered. “I will inform Madame her guests have arrived.”

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 14-15

Elizabeth could describe her beginnings at Netherfield Park as discouraging. As she explained her reason for paying such a sudden visit, she was well and truly discomfited by the combined pressure of the Bingleys’, Hursts’, and Mr. Darcy’s attention. Especially Mr. Darcy, whose expression was as cold as ever but somehow made worse by his obvious interest in the state of her soggy hems. Or perhaps it was her face, flushed from the three-mile walk.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 16-17

When Elizabeth returned to her sister, to her shock a housemaid at the head of Jane’s bed was holding a clay pot to Jane’s nose. With a fan, the housemaid waved steam into Jane’s face.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 18-19

Elizabeth had little fondness for Miss Caroline Bingley, but her stories of London balls brought a light to Jane’s countenance that Elizabeth grudgingly appreciated. Jane’s illness still made her weak and inclined towards falling asleep, sometimes midway through speaking, but she was looking better as the day progressed. The treatments were helping, along with the honeyed porridge Mr. Darcy had sent. Despite her animosity towards him, Elizabeth appreciated his efforts.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 22-23

Elizabeth and her sisters took turns giving Mr. Bennet sips of broth through the rest of the day. Mr. Bennet stirred after a few hours, opening his eyes and speaking, though his words were garbled and it was clear after a few moments he was not aware of his surroundings.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 24-25

Elizabeth stayed up the rest of the night at her father’s bedside. Had her father been well, she still would not have slept. Too much had changed. Mr. Darcy’s actions in protecting their home had sparked some awareness in the core of her being, and Elizabeth had been unable to wrest her eyes from him as he fired the second shot.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 26-27

Mr. Bennet improved over the first two days of Mr. Collins’s visit. Mr. Collins, to Elizabeth’s dismay, did not. It became apparent to Elizabeth that Mr. Collins had eyes for her, and worse, Mrs. Bennet heartily approved the match.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 28-29

Mr. Darcy could not keep his eyes from Miss Elizabeth. Her dress and sheer presence stood in contrast to Mr. Darcy’s dark suit and white half-mask that only covered his eyes. She wore her glorious dark hair up in an intricate weave of braids and curls. Laurel leaves nestled in her hair and she wore pearls from her ears and her neck.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 30-Epilogue

A painful longing burst out of Darcy’s every pore. Was this love? Mr. Darcy had never given much thought to love beyond the familial, which he was obligated to protect. Mr. Bingley stepped in and out of love like dipping buff naked into a series of cool ponds in the dead of summer. Mr. Darcy had never felt the urge to stand naked in spirit before anyone. It was too risky, and Darcy abhorred unnecessary risks.

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Read Free Online – Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapter 1

Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher
Mr. Darcy's Cipher Cover

A secret letter brings them together. Will an assassin tear them apart?

For Miss Elizabeth Bennet, love is the cipher she cannot crack.

Outside the Longbourn house, Elizabeth Bennet is an ordinary country miss. But in secret, she and her father crack codes to foil Napoleon’s schemes against England. More than anything, Elizabeth wants to be loved for herself, but how can she when she lives a double life?

For Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a coded letter hides the key to his heart.

After Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brother is killed in France, a coded letter carries his final words and a dangerous secret. Mr. Darcy brings the letter to the Bennets for answers. But soon the code is the least of Mr. Darcy’s conundrums as he finds himself falling for Elizabeth Bennet. Caught between an assassin and an old enemy, can Mr. Darcy accept his feelings and win Miss Elizabeth’s heart before it is too late?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Cipher, Book 1 of the Spies and Prejudice series. Mr. Darcy’s Cipher is a Pride and Prejudice variation with heaps of romance, humor, suspense, code-cracking, and two sometimes bullheaded but lovable leads who struggle to save a nation while falling in love. 

If you love Pride and Prejudice variations with a twist of espionage, start reading Mr. Darcy’s Cipher now!

Chapter 1

It was a truth universally acknowledged within the Longbourn House that of Mr. Bennet’s five daughters, Lizzie was the only one who had inherited her father’s love of puzzles.

At first, humoring Elizabeth was a matter of pride. One autumn afternoon when Elizabeth was nine years of age, she slipped beside him on the chaise and pointed at a large stack of papers from a missive he had received that morning from London.

“What an odd script!” Elizabeth exclaimed at the seemingly nonsensical symbols. “Is it Greek?”

“It is a cipher.” Mr. Bennet leaned closer to his daughter, and the ghost of a smile teased his lips. “A secret.”

“What kind of secret?”

“To discover that, one must unwind the code.”

Lizzie nodded, her dark eyes shining. “Show me!”

Mr. Bennet put in front of her a sheet of paper and explained to her how to go about decoding a simple Caesar cipher. He expected Lizzie to grow weary of the exercise, as her older sister Jane had done a year before, but Elizabeth was tenacious. Before half an hour had passed, she handed back the code, deciphered in small, precise script.

And so father and daughter began a lifelong pattern of instruction. And as Mr. Bennet’s eyesight failed him, it was Lizzie who read the missives sent from the prime minister’s office to foil Bonaparte’s designs on conquering England.

Had Elizabeth been born a man, Mr. Bennet might have informed others of her skills, but codebreaking wasn’t an appropriate vocation for a young lady. Worse, he had grown dependent on her abilities as his eyesight rendered the world around him a cipher that became increasingly difficult to navigate. So he kept Lizzie’s abilities, and his own deficiencies, from being discovered outside the walls of his own home.

The relationship between father and daughter at points quite irritated Mrs. Bennet, who had no interest in puzzles nor the faculties for solving them. But she humored her husband while at the same time entreating her daughter to stay silent with potential suitors about her oddities. And Lizzie, being a good-natured, lighthearted, and dutiful young woman of twenty years, yielded to her mother in this, not wanting her own eccentricities to stand in the way of her finding a loving match.

Father and daughter sat, head bowed over what appeared to be a Caesar cipher when Mrs. Bennet noisily entered her husband’s study.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said the lady to him. She bustled across the room to the window and flung it open. “How long have the pair of you been cooped up in this room without even the slightest hint of a breeze to liven the air?” The papers on Mr. Bennet’s desk fluttered beneath twin paperweights as a damp autumn breeze blew over the room.

Mr. Bennet leaned back in his chair. The clock said half three, too early for luncheon or tea. His wife rarely ventured into his domain at this point of the day. “It is half three,” returned Mr. Bennet. “What is the matter?”

Mrs. Bennet glanced over at Elizabeth, who despite her best efforts had speckles of black ink on her fingers and speckling the dull walnut colored fabric of her linen mitts, as, lips moving, she tapped at a paper scrawled all over in code with the back of her pen.

“Lizzie! Your hands! My heavens, you must wash these immediately and change into something more suitable!”

Elizabeth looked up. “Mother?”

“Suitable for what?” Mr. Bennet asked. “She hasn’t any balls or visits planned at this time of the day, has she?”

“No! It is even better.” Mrs. Bennet brought her hands up to her chest with a delighted intake of breath. “Your guest, a young, handsome and unmarried gentleman by the name of Mr. Darcy is here in our parlor! Why did you not inform me he was calling? He is in every manner proper, from his waistcoat to his Hessians. I would have had the cook prepare a special lunch so he might feel more welcome and have a more pleasant opportunity to meet and converse with our daughters.”

“Mr. Darcy…” Mr. Bennet mused. “Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Yes. I had quite forgotten the date. Mr. Darcy is not here for lunch. His deceased brother sent a letter, presumably in code, and he wished it deciphered. As the younger Mr. Darcy was stationed in France, I felt it imperative to assess the cipher myself to make certain it had nothing to do with our affairs abroad. Now, why have you abandoned the elder Mr. Darcy in our parlor?”

“For Lizzie’s sake!” Mrs. Bennet responded. “Elizabeth, my nerves cannot bear the thought of your bluestocking tendencies being revealed to such esteemed company. You may never marry! I fear I might faint. Mr. Bennet, how is it you allowed your daughter to come to such a state? Have you no eyes?”

“I fear I still am in possession of both, however poorly they serve me.”

“Well, my dear,” Mrs. Bennet said, skimming over the distasteful fact of her husband’s failing eyesight as it, to some extent, negated his periodic compliments of her remaining beauty. “It would behoove you both for Lizzie to scrub her hands at the very least. We may not have time to change her into a more flattering dress, but—”

“Lizzie, stay put,” Mr. Bennet said. “My dear,” he continued. “This gentleman is here to converse with me?”

“His manners are exquisite, and with such a serious air, and elder Mr. Darcy you say? Perhaps eldest,” Mrs. Bennet added hopefully. “He is certainly of fine breeding. I had thought he might be but a second or third son commissioned with the militia or army though he gave no rank and he does not wear regimentals—”

“Elder? Eldest? It does not answer the question of why he remains idling in our parlor.”

“Lizzie must be made suitable. It is wonderful news. First Mr. Bingley taking possession of Netherfield house, and now—”

“Mr. Bingley? What has any of this to do with Mr. Bingley?”

“You do not listen at all.” Mrs. Bennet let out a weary sigh. “How painful is your disregard! We discussed Mr. Bingley a week ago. He is likely arrived at this point. Oh! What if this Mr. Darcy is a guest of Mr. Bingley?”

“Suppose—”

“And Mr. Bingley has taken possession of Netherfield Park. Such a fine thing for our girls, or it would be if you called upon him before some other man’s daughter snaps the young gentleman up! If you were to tear your attention for one moment from the war to tend to your duties at home—”

“It will do no good to our daughters to be settled if Bonaparte storms over the breadth of England and seizes from them anything which they might have gained through marriage.”

“Again with Bonaparte!” Mrs. Bennet stomped her foot. “We are all doing as we ought to support our men on the front. Have not myself and the other ladies sewn blankets and knitted warm items to send to our fighting men?

“But one must also accept that the concerns of our lives amount to more than opposing that vile man of the Continent who declares himself an emperor. I could not wish to believe you, my dear Mr. Bennet, spared no care for your daughters beyond how our Lizzie’s keen eyes assist you in your deciphering.

“This Mr. Darcy, a handsome, young gentleman who is currently lacking a wife. I have no sense yet of his assets—”

“A difficult thing to determine in a few moments of conversation, though I do not doubt you gave a valiant effort,” Mr. Bennet said with no small amount of sarcasm in his tone.

Mrs. Bennet ignored it. “This Mr. Darcy might provide an excellent match for one of our daughters. You understand this is of greater import than mere scribblings, as amusing as you both may find them. Now Lizzie, scrub your hands. Your father will be able to engage in idle conversation until you return—”

It was the wrong thing to say. Mr. Bennet’s face flushed, and his voice was low and furious as he stated, “Bonaparte may invade at any moment, and you natter on about our daughter’s hands? This gentleman, whether or not he is wed, will leave post-haste as soon as his brother’s correspondence is deciphered; and in either case, if he cannot see past a pair of ink-dappled hands, he is of no use to us.”

“No use!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. “In case you have forgotten, all five of your daughters are as yet unwed. And at the moment of your death, our house and all we own is entailed to your cousin.”

“I am well aware of our difficulties, more so because you see fit to remind me of them daily.”

“Already you refuse to call upon Mr. Bingley, stating now you do not remember the conversation we had on just this subject in this room a mere week ago. Oh, my nerves! It is as though a thousand spiders are skittering over my skin, and I cannot breathe for the fear. Oh Mr. Bennet!”

Mr. Bennet was unmoved.

“I can wash them,” Elizabeth said to mollify her mother. She hated it when her parents fought, especially when she was the cause. No matter the state of her hands though, Elizabeth doubted a talent for deciphering code would offer her entry into a young gentleman’s heart. It hardly mattered. If this Mr. Darcy was here about a code, he would depart quickly enough with his questions answered.

“No, Lizzie. We have kept Mr. Darcy waiting long enough. Send him in, Mrs. Bennet,” Mr. Bennet ordered. “The quicker we handle it, the quicker he can be on his way.”

“The point of this discussion is not to send an available young gentleman on his way––”

“Either send him in, or you will force me to go myself to receive him.”

“No! Do not stir yourself on my behalf. I will have him brought here. Elizabeth, if you don’t wash that ink away, at least take care to hide your fingers.” Mrs. Bennet turned abruptly to the door, her skirts flaring out with the force of her spin as she strode with well-choreographed indignation from the room.

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Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 4-5

It was not Mr. Wickham’s first evening at the gambling hell known as “the Danny house,” but it had been, by far, his best. An excellent supper filled his belly, and his skin hummed with the pleasant warmth of first-rate whiskey while the taste of an outstanding cigar settled comfortably at the back of his tongue.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 6-7

In Mr. Bingley’s small but cozy library, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley occupied armchairs at a polite remove. They were technically chaperoned, though Miss. Caroline’s maid sat on the other side of the room with a book in her lap. She stared intently at the pages, even venturing to flip one every couple of minutes.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 8-9

On the morning of the Assembly, heavy rain pattered against the roof, making the day as gray and troubling as Elizabeth’s mood. She rechecked her deciphering with her father and penned an urgent letter to the prime minister’s office.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 12-13

Madame Godiva’s leased home was at the edge of the main thoroughfare. The house was small, eighteen feet in front with a small yard in the back where her wagon was presumably settled. As they approached the door, it opened, and a small, simply dressed young housemaid answered. “I will inform Madame her guests have arrived.”

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 14-15

Elizabeth could describe her beginnings at Netherfield Park as discouraging. As she explained her reason for paying such a sudden visit, she was well and truly discomfited by the combined pressure of the Bingleys’, Hursts’, and Mr. Darcy’s attention. Especially Mr. Darcy, whose expression was as cold as ever but somehow made worse by his obvious interest in the state of her soggy hems. Or perhaps it was her face, flushed from the three-mile walk.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 16-17

When Elizabeth returned to her sister, to her shock a housemaid at the head of Jane’s bed was holding a clay pot to Jane’s nose. With a fan, the housemaid waved steam into Jane’s face.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 18-19

Elizabeth had little fondness for Miss Caroline Bingley, but her stories of London balls brought a light to Jane’s countenance that Elizabeth grudgingly appreciated. Jane’s illness still made her weak and inclined towards falling asleep, sometimes midway through speaking, but she was looking better as the day progressed. The treatments were helping, along with the honeyed porridge Mr. Darcy had sent. Despite her animosity towards him, Elizabeth appreciated his efforts.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 22-23

Elizabeth and her sisters took turns giving Mr. Bennet sips of broth through the rest of the day. Mr. Bennet stirred after a few hours, opening his eyes and speaking, though his words were garbled and it was clear after a few moments he was not aware of his surroundings.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 24-25

Elizabeth stayed up the rest of the night at her father’s bedside. Had her father been well, she still would not have slept. Too much had changed. Mr. Darcy’s actions in protecting their home had sparked some awareness in the core of her being, and Elizabeth had been unable to wrest her eyes from him as he fired the second shot.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 26-27

Mr. Bennet improved over the first two days of Mr. Collins’s visit. Mr. Collins, to Elizabeth’s dismay, did not. It became apparent to Elizabeth that Mr. Collins had eyes for her, and worse, Mrs. Bennet heartily approved the match.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 28-29

Mr. Darcy could not keep his eyes from Miss Elizabeth. Her dress and sheer presence stood in contrast to Mr. Darcy’s dark suit and white half-mask that only covered his eyes. She wore her glorious dark hair up in an intricate weave of braids and curls. Laurel leaves nestled in her hair and she wore pearls from her ears and her neck.

Read More »
Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 30-Epilogue

A painful longing burst out of Darcy’s every pore. Was this love? Mr. Darcy had never given much thought to love beyond the familial, which he was obligated to protect. Mr. Bingley stepped in and out of love like dipping buff naked into a series of cool ponds in the dead of summer. Mr. Darcy had never felt the urge to stand naked in spirit before anyone. It was too risky, and Darcy abhorred unnecessary risks.

Read More »

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Days
Hours
Minutes
Seconds
Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Cover

Compromised. Abducted. Rescued?

What if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy met not at Hertfordshire but Hunsford? Rather than unwitting insults, they court in secret while exploring the grounds. It is perfect until the couple is caught in a compromising position. Will a forced engagement and a missing bride-to-be derail their love?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride, Book 1 of the Power of Darcy’s Love series. Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride is a sweet, suspenseful romance of 30,000 words with a guaranteed happy ending.

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Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Prologue

Thirst. Elizabeth that she had never truly been thirsty before. Before, drinking happened without a second thought; a servant was called, and Elizabeth drank. Now, her tongue lay like dry dough in her mouth. Elizabeth ran her fingers along the damp, stone floor. Her chained leg clinked with her movement. The links ran to an iron ring nailed into the wall, too dark and too far away to see.

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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapter 1

It was early morning, and the sun was resplendent, its rays coloring the budding floral displays and grasslands that appointed the gardens of Rosings. Elizabeth Bennet delighted in the patches of warm sunlight on her skin. It was the edge of summer, the end of spring and the weather was at its best: not too hot or cold, but warmth touching the earth and encouraging the flowers to bloom.

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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 2

“My nephew always makes dining that much more lively,” Lady Catherine de Bourgh waved her handkerchief at the two men seated at her table. She was making a point to the guests in attendance: Mr. and Mrs. Collins and Elizabeth Bennet. “My daughter, Anne, is always so excited to see Mr. Darcy, aren’t you my dear?” She inclined her head at a pale, young woman sitting next to her at the table. Anne gave a half-hearted smile in return.

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Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Chapters 3

Book in hand, Elizabeth headed to her favorite reading nook, a small tree at the top of a hill, fifteen minutes or so from Charlotte’s house. Maria did not wake before eleven in the morning unless prodded, and Charlotte had insisted Elizabeth feel comfortable walking about wherever she wished in the morning, with or without her friend who preferred less active morning pursuits. While it impressed Elizabeth with how well Charlotte managed Mr. Collins, she could not imagine such a life for herself. Elizabeth wished to marry for love.

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Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge 1-5

Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge Graphic
Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge Graphic

I am so excited to share with you a new, just for fun project I’m did for September 2019. If you were following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you may have seen some of these very short stories I’ve been sharing.  These are called microfictions or sudden fiction, stories of 280 characters or less. In short, stories that fit in a tweet. 

Microfiction existed before Twitter and has often been defined as a story of less than 100 words. The go-to example of a microfiction is attributed to Hemmingway. 

The story reads: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It is only six words, but tells an entire story. 

For September, I have challenged myself to write one daily microfiction. And when I have five, I’ll post them here! If you want to see them as they come out, check out my social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

So far, writing these fics has been a wonderful excercise for getting my creative juices moving in the morning, and I can even see some longer works growing from each of these little projects! 

I made a video for the first one, which you can watch below. And you can read all five stories, with the graphics I made for each too. 

If you have an idea for a future P&P microfiction story you’d like to see me write, drop it in the comments. Also, if any of these little ficlets makes you want to see a longer work, let me know! I might do it (or I might not. I go where the muse leads me, lol).

UPDATE: Every one of these stories are now on mugs!  You can check them out here. 

September Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge, Stories 1-5

Enjoy This Video and Microfictions:

#1 - Year

One year.

Bingley suggested the necklace. Filigree gold & sapphires weaving a rose.

Darcy considered the book. The scent of leather. Passion. Love. Elizabeth’s dark eyes would shine.

Darcy brushed his fingers over the binding. Rose at her bosom, they would read together.

#2 - Kiss

Inspired by a plot bunny from Stephanie Moats.

“Hmmm…,” Elizabeth sighed over her morning chocolate. 

Darcy chuckled. 

Her eyes shot open. “What is it?”

You have something on your cheek. She rubbed it. “Now?”

Darcy stood, walked three steps, leaned in, licked.

“Fitzwilliam!”

“I may have something on my lips.”

#3 - Beathe

Elizabeth will be fine.”

“Bingley, it’s been hours. What if I lose her?” Darcy swallowed fear.

“I felt the same, with our first. Jane is with her. She would not be elsewhere.”

A scream. The baby or—

Darcy leaped up.  

The door opened. “Mr. Darcy, congratulations…” 

#4 - Dance

Inspired by a plot bunny from Elizabeth Ann West.

Aunt Catherine was, as usual, overly solicitous. “I found Georgiana lovely sheet music…”

Darcy’s gaze flitted to Elizabeth. Richard was flirting, blast him!

Perhaps Aunt Catherine could be persuaded to host a ball?

Darcy wished, very much, to dance with Elizabeth again.

#5 - Lavender

In the painting, a girl of five smiles & boy of two scowls. “Your father?” Elizabeth laughed. “You get that look.” 

Darcy touched the girl’s face. “Meg.” He swallowed. “She passed. Fever.”

Elizabeth embraced her husband. 

Darcy breathed his wife’s hair, “Meg loved lavender.”

Thank You for Reading! I’ll have these in a book soon, but in the meantime, every story is currently on a mug! You can learn more below. 

A Mugfull of Austen Inspired Fiction

30 Original Fiction Stories of 280 characters or less. A lovely gift for the Jane Austen fan in all of us. 

I gave myself a challenge to write a story, 280 characters or less, every day for a month. Here is what happened.

Let me know what you think about these in the comments! Also, if you have something you’d like to see in a future microfic, leave a comment and let me know! I’ll shout you out on social media and in the next blog post! 

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Violet King's Books Are Available Via:

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“Lizzy, you have convinced me.” Mr. Bennet stood, his lips tight with the corners turned downwards with an uncharacteristic frown. “If our Lydia is incapable of weathering the perils of Brighton on her own, then you, being possessed of a keen sense and an agile mind, must accompany her.”

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The afternoon sky hung gray and heavy over Pemberley, an ill portent for the afternoon ride to the posting inn and an excellent one for the evening with her husband. After ten days apart, Elizabeth would spend the evening tangled in Mr. Darcy’s arms as the rain pounded the posting inn’s roof.

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What Made You Fall in Love with Jane Austen and Why?

Austen Inspired Graphic
Austen Inspired Graphic

How Were You... Austen Inspired?

Like many of us, I first read Jane Austen in high school. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I returned to it as an adult. I think what really brought the book to life for me was the BBC mini-series. The acting was phenomenal and it inspired me to revisit the book. 

One of the things that most delighted me to learn is Jane Austen invented the internal thought in first person.  It is such a common narrative device now, and one I use throughout my own writing.  I learned this when I picked up The Great Courses, The English Novel, an excellent course with two sections on the 19th century centering Jane Austen and her work.

Also, who doesn’t love themselves some Mr. Darcy? 

So what first got you…Austen Inspired? 

Share your love in the comments!

And if you are looking for more inspiration, enjoy this wonderful video via Ted Education.

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An Unsuitable Governess Graphic

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.

Read More »
Darcy's Hidden Desire Banner

Darcy’s Hidden Desire – Chapters 1-2

Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy woke as her husband pulled his arm from around her and sat up. She wished Fitzwilliam had only awakened to use the chamber pot and not to steal away from her bed. The bed she wished they shared.

Read More »
Mr. Darcy's Seaside Romance Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Seaside Romance – Chapters 1-2

“Lizzy, you have convinced me.” Mr. Bennet stood, his lips tight with the corners turned downwards with an uncharacteristic frown. “If our Lydia is incapable of weathering the perils of Brighton on her own, then you, being possessed of a keen sense and an agile mind, must accompany her.”

Read More »
Darcy's Stolen Rendezvous Graphic

Darcy’s Stolen Rendezvous – Chapter 1

The afternoon sky hung gray and heavy over Pemberley, an ill portent for the afternoon ride to the posting inn and an excellent one for the evening with her husband. After ten days apart, Elizabeth would spend the evening tangled in Mr. Darcy’s arms as the rain pounded the posting inn’s roof.

Read More »
Mr. Darcy's Missing Bride Graphic

Mr. Darcy’s Missing Bride – Prologue

Thirst. Elizabeth that she had never truly been thirsty before. Before, drinking happened without a second thought; a servant was called, and Elizabeth drank. Now, her tongue lay like dry dough in her mouth. Elizabeth ran her fingers along the damp, stone floor. Her chained leg clinked with her movement. The links ran to an iron ring nailed into the wall, too dark and too far away to see.

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