The season in Regency England was not just balls and Almacks. The theatre in Regency times was an important place for those who spent the season in London, and those who ventured to the theatre did not attend to simply watch a play. They dressed to the nines and sat in long carriage lines to also see who was in attendance as well as to be seen. In fact, the practice was so common that when Charles Garnier planned the Paris Opera House (1861-1875), he had mirrors placed throughout the lobby because he felt the only performance of the night did not play out on the stage. The spectators were as much a part of the nightly performance as the actors.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn about Theatre in Regency England, here is your chance. I’ve compiled these totally random facts that you may or may not wish to know.
♥ In the 18th and early 19th century, a night’s programme at the theatre included a five act play, followed by a farcical afterpiece, which were often pantomimes. The later entertainment was popular since it could be enjoyed by those who arrived late and were admitted at half price. Wiltshire, John. The Cambridge Edition of Mansfield Park, Cambridge University Press (2005). Pg. 677.
♥ The male nobility who kept their alternative lives away from prying eyes made exceptions for the theater. Cyprians often came face to face with wives and other relations of their male sponsors at the theatre and the opera. Wilson, Ben. The Making of Victorian Values, Decency & Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837 . The Penguin Press (2007). Pg. 197.
♥ Actors were not much better than servants in the eyes of society, and actresses were nearly prostitutes. A gentleman or aristocrat could set up an actress as his mistress, but heaven forbid, a lady enter into a relationship with an actor! In fact, the Prince Regent’s first mistress was Mary Robinson, an actress at the Theatre Royal. She caused a big stink when he ended the affair because he didn’t pay her the annuity expected at the end of the situation. Instead, she held letters he’d written her for ransom, demanding £5,000 for their return. Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters. Hambledon Continuum (2004). Pg. 39. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/making_history/makhist10_prog2b.shtml
♥ There were hundreds of candles that lit the auditorium and the stage during the intermissions as well as the performances (The theatres couldn’t be dimmed during the performance. It was too hazardous and would have been a time-consuming job!). The theatre employed candle trimmers and snuffers to monitor and tend to the candles. If a candle was trimmed too soon the trimmer risked knocking lit candles down and starting fires, but if they were trimmed too late, the audience would complain of hot wax dripping on them from above. (Ouch!) Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 167.
♥ Renting a subscription box or owning a box was a sign of your social status and fashionable position. Only the most affluent purchased boxes by the season; however, as prices rose, some patrons chose to share a box and others rented their boxes out for individual performances. Rendell, Jane. The Pursuit of Pleasure: Gender, Space and Architecture in Regency London . Rutgers University Press (2002). Pg. 116.
♥ Shakespeare’s plays were tremendously popular but the actors performed in modern dress rather than the characteristic doublet and hose of the 16th century. Tapley, Jane. Contrib to Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine. Issue: 17. Pg. 23.
♥ Famous courtesan Harriet Wilson had a box at the Opera every Tuesday and Sunday night and a box at the theatre from Thursday to Saturday. Her box was used to flaunt her “attractions” and were for the purpose of soliciting and meeting possible “protectors.” Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 170.
♥ James Hadfield made an assassination attempt against George III on 15 May 1800 at the Theatre Royal. As the king was announced and God Save the King was played, Hadfield fired two pistol shots from the pit toward the King who stood in the royal box. The performers subdued Hadfield, who had reportedly missed by inches. The King appeared unfazed and requested the play continue as planned. http://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/05/double-assassination-attempt-on-george.html
♥ A spouting club was a meeting of apprentices and mechanics who rehearsed characters, and formed recruits for the strolling companies. Grose, Captain (Francis). Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 edition. Ikon Classics (2004)
♥ Fruit sellers sold their wares throughout the performances, and some had other trades on the side. Members of the audience and people in the boxes conducted business transactions. Theater staff, personal messengers, and footmen couriered gossip, orders for carriages, money, love notes and bills of exchange between patrons for much of the evening. Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 167.
♥ It was normal and accepted not only for the audience to arrive exceedingly late (sometimes as much as an hour and a half) but also for them talk throughout the entire performance. Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness. Penguin Books (1998). Pg. 220.
So, was Regency Theatre what you expected, better or worse? I find the more I read of it, the more surprised I am by some of the scandals.
Good morning! I’m at work formatting the paperback for The Peculiarity of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror, so I’m posting a short I wrote for Persuasion: Behind the Scenes. I will be posting the next chapter of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror on Wednesday at Austen Variations. If you have not read the first three, click the links for Chapters 1 & 2 and Chapter 3. If you have yet to preorder, what are you waiting for? Click here for that!!!
“Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs Clay, were the earliest of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room. But hardly were they so settled, when the door opened again, and Captain Wentworth walked in alone.”
Upon his entrance to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth paused to survey his surroundings. The gallery was opulent, as was expected, and the many people in attendance were all dressed in their finest, gathered in their respective groups while they likely discussed the performance ahead.
As he began his advance further into the room, his eyes lit upon Anne, who stood with her father and her sister near the far corner. She must have noticed him when he walked through the entry since she continued to observe him as he made his way through the crowd.
Would she attempt to speak with him? If she tried, would her father allow the conversation?
His gut twisted with anxiety as he drew nearer. A small bow should suffice as an acknowledgement, should it not? If Anne wished to speak with him, she would have to approach him. He would not harm her relationship with her family—not that they were worthy of Anne. She was far superior a creature!
Captain Wentworth drew close and she took a small step forward. She was indeed approaching him! He halted when he heard her sweet voice beckon, “How do you do?” He indicated he was well, and when he was acknowledged by Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, he bowed.
Between them both, they swiftly covered all of the niceties of polite discourse: the weather, Bath, and the concert ahead. As their conversation flagged, he began to despair. Could this be all they had to say to one another? Lyme! Of course, he should mention Lyme!
“I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme. I am afraid you must have suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you at the time.” Pleasure soared within him as they spoke of their shared experiences, progressing from Louisa Musgrove’s unfortunate accident to her betrothal to Captain Benwick.
Something within Anne’s eyes was disturbed upon the mention of the upcoming nuptials. He had witnessed many emotions cross her face, and had catalogued each within his memory, and this appeared almost a sadness. Could she believe he harboured an attachment to Louisa? Despite the resentment he had carried within his heart for all of these years, he could not allow her to be so affected by a mistaken notion.
“…A man like him, in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.”
There! He had given a hint of his innermost thoughts and feelings, but would she understand?
The shadow lifted, but she pressed forward and lengthened their discussion. His keen ears registered the low tones of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot behind Anne, but he paid them no heed. While he maintained Anne’s attention, he would not be distracted by their inane prattle.
“I should very much like to see Lyme again,” said Anne.
How she surprised him! Would she wish to return for the sights, or because the location held memories of him? Oh, how he wished it were the latter!
“…One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was by no means the case at Lyme…”
Could she feel the same in regards to her past with him? If only…
Sir Walter and Miss Elliot gave him a start when with haste, they ripped Anne from him to meet Lady Dalrymple. Captain Wentworth had not even heard her announced, yet when he turned, Sir Walter and Miss Elliot were greeting the newcomer with a condescension not often seen from the baronet and his eldest daughter.
Anne glanced back to him, but in all politeness, could not escape her present situation. Her attention returned to her party, and he ventured on to the Concert Room with the hopes he might be afforded the opportunity to speak with her again before the end of the evening.
Patiently he waited, revisiting their conversation; her words dissected and examined for any glimpse of affection for him. When she entered the Concert Room, he observed her with great care. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed. Her expression was easily discernible to him. She was happy—exceedingly happy.
Her vibrant eyes searched the room and a small wrinkle knit her brow. Could she be seeking him? If that be the case, he could die a happy man!
His heart soared and then just as swiftly plummeted when she was seated beside none other than Mr. Elliot: Mr. Elliot from Lyme, Mr. Elliot from the teashop, Mr. Elliot who would inherit her father’s title, Mr. Elliot who Sir Walter was certain to deem more worthy than a wealthy sea captain with no connexions of significance.
With envy, his gaze remained on his beloved throughout the entirety of the first act. Mr. Elliot showed Anne every attention allowable during the performance, and the two began to speak near the end of the act.
Captain Wentworth’s agony became more and more acute as Anne’s smiles and kindness were directed at Mr. Elliot rather than himself, and he seethed with jealousy as he followed them to the Octagon Room.
He sulked in the periphery, watching Anne as she took tea with her party. It was then that he heard the whispers from behind.
“I hear Sir Walter has welcomed Mr. Elliot with open arms.”
“There will soon be an Elliot wedding. I am certain of it!”
His eyes darted back to Anne as his hands clenched at his sides. He could not remain and watch as she was courted by another! Visions of her marrying Mr. Elliot flooded his mind, followed by one of her holding a child, Mr. Elliot protectively at her side.
Blast! He was too late!
Upon the Elliot’s return to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth took a seat near the back, yet he could not abide to spend the next hour in abject misery. It was not to be borne! He rose and made his way to her.
“I must wish you a good night; I must be going. I should return home as soon as can be managed.“
“Is not this song worth staying for?”
“No!” he replied impressively, “there is nothing worth my staying for;” and he departed directly.
With a set jaw and unsettled mind, his feet carried him with purpose in the direction of the Croft’s, yet he had no idea of his surroundings since he could not cease the tormenting thoughts of Anne.
When he had first laid eyes upon her in Charles Musgrove’s cottage at Uppercross, his stubborn anger had shoved aside the overwhelming urge to take her in his arms, and he had allowed it, a part of him wanting to prove that he had not pined for her during those past eight years.
Rather than ascertain if she had longed for him as he had her, he paid Louisa Musgrove attention that he would not have bestowed under normal circumstances. What a wretched mistake! Now, he would pay dearly for his bitterness of spirit—dearly indeed.
Captain Wentworth halted and looked about in order to discern his location. He took a deep breath in an attempt to steady himself and not lose his composure there on the pavement.
The time had come to relegate Anne to the past and look to the future—to live his life. He would have no choice but to endure her presence on occasion as he concluded his business in Bath, and he would do so with equanimity. Then, he would depart and leave her to her life, because he could not bear to play the part of a spectator as she wed Mr. Elliot.
With any luck, he would be far from Bath when her engagement was announced. He would never lay eyes on Anne Elliot again.
I’m so excited for you to read what I have been stressing over. Today, we’re going to look at places in the story, most importantly Pemberley. Everyone has their own Pemberley, particularly when you travel to England and tour both Lyme Park and Chatsworth. Some love Lyme Park (Pemberley 1995) and find Chatsworth (Pemberley 2005) more of a showplace than a home (which it was), and some enjoy Chatsworth more.
Personally, I enjoyed the grounds of Lyme Park, but as an artist, I was really drawn to Chatsworth. Yes, a great deal of the tour are the rooms they decked out for royalty, but I like to think of there being a part that is more homey. I certainly wanted to curl up with a book in the library, even if I could only view it from the doorway.
Since Ellie is an art restorer, I did choose to model Pemberley after Chatsworth. When she is first introduced to the great house, she walks into an opulent Great Hall inspired by the Great Hall at Chatsworth and if you look, you’ll find other references that resemble Chatsworth–the cascade, the fountain, the Canova sculptures (like in the sculpture gallery). It was very easy seeing Ellie as an artist being overwhelmed and awed by a Pemberley so grand, yet so in need of lots of work.
I’ve mentioned the Palais Garnier in Paris more than once during the story, and of course, the ballroom is similar, but at the same time, not. In the foyer of the great opera house, there are mirrors lining the wall, giving the feeling that the show is as much about the audience as it is what happens on the stage. Even in Regency times, people went to the theatre to see and be seen. The Hall of Mirrors in Versailles gives a similar feeling. That same sense is what was supposed to be conveyed by this ballroom. However, in my mind, there is one mirror that is larger than the rest, and despite its age, is immaculate. No black in the mirror itself that comes with age, no layer of dust on the frame. Of course, Oliver will assume there is some on the top because how could a 250 year old mirror in a long abandoned house not be dirty? Then Ellie gets a good look at it, and the rest is in the book 😉
One thing I’ve had with editing and proofreading modern or in this case a story with a modern character that takes place in England is questions about slang. I think most JAFF readers are familiar with the -or vs. -our differences (color vs. colour, honor, vs. honour) but there are other spelling differences (traveled vs. travelled, jewelry vs. jewellery, focused vs. focussed) and the -ed vs. -t past tenses (learned vs. learnt). But what about the slang!! That can be the fun part, so let’s go through some of the fun British slang words/phrases and a few just every day British things that you may not be familiar with.
Mental – In most places if you call someone or say something is mental, it’s really offensive. I always heard it used more in terms of things or something that has happened than people, but I have heard someone saying “I must be going mental.” It’s like saying something is crazy or I must be going crazy.”
Barmy – Also can mean mad or crazy.
Bollocks – It can mean a gentleman’s testicles, but in MDM, it’s like saying “Crap!” or “Blast!”
Take the Mick out of – Is to tease or ridicule.
Takeaway – Takeout from a restaurant
Cuppa – cup of tea
Fit – Good looking. I had a friend say my husband is a “fitty.” She was horribly embarrassed when she realised he was my fitty.
Bloke – guy, man
CV – resume
Ribena – So, not slang to start off. Ribena is black current juice. It’s often sold in concentrate like squash and you add water. You can also buy it in juice boxes for school lunches.
Mr. Kipling’s – These are different little cakes and such. They remind me of Little Debbies.
Hobnobs – Are like a flat oatmeal cookie. You can get them with a layer of chocolate on them too.
Victoria Sponge – YUM!!! A double layer vanilla sponge cake with clotted cream and raspberry or strawberry jam between the layers and dusted in powdered sugar.
NHS – National Health Service.
Paracetamol – Acetaminophen/Tylenol
Lovely – So, not slang or something unusual, but one thing an American friend of mine and I noticed when we were both living in England was that prior to living there, we both always used “lovely” sarcastically. It came up in the car ride from picking her up at the Epping tube station to Cambridge. We then spent the day taking turns laughing when the other would use it as a compliment. We went to Wimpole and one of us would breathe “Lovely” at a room or a painting and the other would laugh.
Hope everyone enjoyed my little glossary/fun fact sheet for Mr. Darcy’s Mirror! If you haven’t preordered it yet, what are you waiting for? Preorder it now!!
September 22nd is the release day of The Peculiarity of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror, so I’m gearing up for a release! Ellie Gardiner is an art restorer starting her first real job at Pemberley of modern day. She obviously would know a lot about art, but how much of that knowledge is right on the tip of her tongue. When she finds herself in 1811, she has a few discussions about art. How would she not? So let’s talk about a few of the artists who are mentioned.
John Constable (1776-1837) was an English landscape artist famous for his scenes of his home county of Suffolk. While he only sold about 20 paintings during his lifetime, he is now considered one of the great British landscape artists. His most famous work is The Hay Wain, Dedham Vale, and many of you may know Wivenhoe Park from a book cover here or there.
William Marlow (1740-1813) was an English landscape artist famous for his marine scenes and etchings. Mr. Bennet has Marlow’s View of Legate Street from Ludgate Hill. Originally from Southwark in London, Marlow started with the Incorporated Society of Artists. He showed his work there, at the Free Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy. Due to licensing, I do not have an image of Mr. Bennet’s etching for you. I do have it saved on Pinterest.
Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was an exceptionally skilled Venetian sculptor. By 1800, Canova had patrons from France, England, Russia, Poland, Austria and Holland and also sculpted for several royal families, being one of the most celebrated artists on the continent. Have you seen the sculpture gallery at Chatsworth? If you’ve watched the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy looks at several of Chatsworth’s amazing Canovas in that movie. Of course, Pemberley wouldn’t be Pemberley of the future…or the past without Canovas so Fitzwilliam has several from his father’s association with Mr. Canova himself.
There are more artists, but I won’t list them all today 🙂 I’m prepping the preorder for The Peculiarity of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror, so hopefully, you can preorder it soon! In the meantime, for my latest news and fun content, sign up for my mailing list here.
Hi all! I’ve got so much going on and coming up, and I don’t want you to miss one bit of it so I’m hoping to get a newsletter going. Nothing crazy. I don’t want to flood your inbox all of the time but just keep you up to date with what’s coming and some fun research and maybe a bit of a quickie (the story kind! Sheesh!) ;). AND if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get a free short story all ready to go to your Kindle! Just click the link below, sign up for the newsletter, and you have a fun, free read.
Captain Wentworth, ecstatic with Anne’s acceptance of his hand, ventures to Camden Place to apply for Sir Walter’s consent…
His footfalls sounded briskly off the pavement as Captain Wentworth strode to the home of the Elliots in Camden Place. With the warm sun peeking through the fluffy clouds, the weather was brilliant and reflected well the overwhelming happiness of his heart at that moment.
Anne had accepted his hand! After eight long years of abject misery, he had won the heart of his love and would once again apply to Sir Walter for his consent.
Awash with anxiety and excitement, he rapped the ornate brass knocker and paused to await the door’s opening. His first application eight years ago had not been accepted with ease or graciousness, and Captain Wentworth began to worry once more as his mind was called back to the disparagement of the self-centred baronet so many years prior.
“You? Anne accepted you? Granted, you look well enough, but where is your fortune? To think one of your inferior birth would have the gall to believe yourself worthy of the daughter of a baronet! It is unpardonable!”
“This connexion should never be—Anne the sister of a curate and wife of a naval officer. What a disgrace to the name Elliot!”
Of course, Anne’s gentle character could not withstand such censure and the persuasion of both her father and Lady Russell, but now that day was long past and long forgotten. Gone was the innocent nineteen year-old who broke his heart, his Anne was now a woman of eight and twenty, a woman who knew her own heart and mind.
The butler allowed him inside and took his hat.
“Captain Frederick Wentworth requests a private audience with Sir Walter Elliot.”
“Very good, sir,” responded the servant. With a polite bow, he passed through the closest set of doors only to return a few moments later. “If you will follow me.” Captain Wentworth trailed behind the man as he returned through the same doorway, pausing just inside. “Captain Frederick Wentworth.”
A quick survey of the room indicated Sir Walter would not grant him the private audience he requested. Miss Elliot stood from where she had been seated at the divan, a pinched, sour expression upon her face, while Anne, dear Anne, rose from her seat with such a glow upon her countenance. She was more beautiful than any memory he had of her—and she would at long last be his!
His bow was returned with curtsies from the ladies and a pretentious nod from Sir Walter.
“I cannot comprehend your purpose in requesting a private audience,” droned Sir Walter as if he was bored of his own voice. “You cannot have anything to say which my daughters cannot hear.”
With a curt nod, the captain steeled himself. “Very well, sir. I have come for but one purpose. I have requested the honour of your daughter Anne’s hand in marriage and have been accepted. The request of a meeting was to garner your blessing and consent.”
Sir Walter cast a disinterested glance to Anne as Miss Elliot’s head whipped to her younger sister. “But what of Mr. Elliot!”
“What of Mr. Elliot?” asked Anne in a calm tone. “I have given him no encouragement and have no understanding with the gentleman. He is free to seek his future where he wishes.”
Miss Elliot sneered as she took her seat, casting a loathing glare at Captain Wentworth. “He is hardly worthy of the daughter of a baronet.”
“The captain has his fortune and has distinguished himself in service to the crown. He is all that is noble, honourable, and deserving.”
Captain Wentworth beamed with pleasure. Her defence was not required, but how wonderful she should come to his aid on her own! He had secured her as much as she had secured him, and her affections were his and his alone
Sir Walter appraised him much as he had eight years prior. “You have not lost your looks, and do not appear the colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree; all lines and wrinkles. At least your countenance would reflect well upon the Elliot name.” With a sigh, he tapped the top of his snuff box. “You may not be what I would have hoped in regards to birth, but I will give no objection.”
Captain Wentworth turned to Anne whose face was lit with a bright smile. “Thank you, Father.”
“Yes, well…” droned Sir Walter.
“It is such brilliant weather. Would it be acceptable if I escort Anne to Sidney Gardens; we could settle on a day for the wedding whilst we walk the paths.”
Her father peered at the captain as he placed a bit of snuff upon the side of his hand. “I suppose.”
Anne bit her bottom lip and hastened from the room as the captain gave a bow. “I thank you, Sir Walter, for your time.”
The pompous gentleman gave a dismissive wave, and Captain Wentworth turned and departed without delay to the entry where his betrothed awaited him.
She wore a beatific smile as she nodded and placed her delicate hand on his arm. “We shall.”
Can you believe it’s August already? I hope everyone is having a great summer. I’m in the midst of editing my latest book (working title: Mr. Darcy’s Mirror (Not likely to keep that name 😉 ) ) and trying to keep up with the never-ending house repairs that we’ve been blessed with.
If you’re like me, you’re looking for a fun escape, especially for sitting at the pool or on the beach so I’ve discounted my first book of the Wedding Planners Series: It’s Always Been You to 99¢. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll give it a try or even send it as a gift to one of your friends. You can’t beat the price!
Just in case, I’ll put up the first chapter to whet your appetite 🙂
When I first laid eyes on the expanse of pristine white beach, I slid off my sandals, stepped down from the dock to the water’s edge, and gave in to the urge to squish the damp sand between my toes. The warmth of the sun magically prickled my skin as I took a deep breath, inhaling the air kissed with the heavy, salt scent of the sea while brilliant aquamarine water stretched forever until it darkened when it met the cloudless azure-colored sky. A slight breeze wafted in from the sea along with the occasional whitecap that broke along the sand. I still couldn’t believe I stood there absorbing every last breathtaking bit. I’d saved up for years for this vacation, and I was finally here. Two weeks! Two weeks to snorkel, lay out on the beach, or maybe scuba dive if I felt like it. Whatever I wanted. I was servant to no one’s whims but my own.
My plane had landed mid-afternoon, so it was already too late to plan anything for today, but I would definitely have to decide what to do tomorrow. I’d never traveled on my own before but why should being alone be an issue? I wouldn’t have to check with someone else before I made plans, and I wouldn’t disappoint or frustrate someone if I wanted to be lazy and relax in my villa with room service and a chick flick—not that I had any intention of doing so. At least, not yet.
“Miss Barrett?” I tore my eyes away from the picturesque view in front of me to the uniformed porter ambling down the dock. “Your bags are in your villa, number ten, just down on the left. Are you sure you don’t need me to introduce you to the amenities we offer?”
I shook my head. “No, thank you. I’m certain I can figure it all out on my own. I am interested in snorkeling tomorrow. Could you recommend a guide perhaps? Someone who knows the best places and can take me there.”
“You’re welcome to snorkel off the deck of your villa, but the resort also offers tours. Your villa has a portfolio with all of our packages on the desk near the phone. Be sure to call as soon as you decide. You never know when the tours will fill quickly.”
I lifted one side of my lips. “Of course, I will. I suppose I would’ve known about the portfolio if I’d let you show me around. I apologize.”
“No worries, miss. If you require anything further, feel free to call our concierge desk. One of our staff will be happy to assist you.”
“Thank you.” I opened the small purse hanging at my side and pulled out a tip, which the young man accepted with a thank you before heading back toward the huge hut-like building that housed the lobby, the restaurants, and probably some sort of conference center.
A warm breeze rippled through the palms behind me, blowing the long curls back from my face and pressing my gauzy white skirt against my legs. The resort was paradise—no fussy clients, no work, no family, no one to please but myself. My sister Jena was right. I did need this. The biggest question now was what to do first?
That wasn’t a difficult question to answer. A shower to wash the stale airplane smell from my hair and skin was a must! By the time I dressed, the different restaurants at the resort would be open for dinner. I’d need to call and book a reservation, not to mention schedule that snorkeling tour for the earliest slot available tomorrow.
My footsteps made a steady cadence down the wooden planking of the dock until I reached my villa on the left, but before I could open the door, a loud voice from one of the huts nearby almost made me jump out of my skin.
“No, I just arrived yesterday. I have no intention of leaving so soon.” I lifted my eyebrows. Whoever he was, his voice held a low tone that did not sound happy.
“No, I will not. I have some things I need to take care of and this is as good a place as any. I’ll see you when I return.”
I took another step but stopped when the voice continued, “How would you come here? You don’t even know where I am. Really, this is ludicrous. I asked for some time, and I intend to take it. Please don’t call me again. I’ll contact you when I’m ready to talk. Goodbye.”
With a quick peek, I checked to see if anyone noticed me standing there. What if he came out of his villa and found me listening? Not that I could avoid overhearing his conversation with how loud he was speaking, but it had still been rude to listen. I should’ve gone inside and booked that tour for tomorrow instead of being unbearably nosy. Before someone could catch me up to no good, I hurried inside. I had no intention of getting on that man’s bad side! Whoever he was.
~ * ~
When I stepped back onto the dock a few hours later, the sky had morphed from that azure blue to an amazing sunset, awash with vibrant hues of red, orange, and purple and the water had become darker with the setting sun, looking more an inky black than the brilliant topaz of earlier. It was beautiful.
I had no desire to rush, so I didn’t walk quickly. Instead, I took my time almost meandering down the walkway toward the main building of the resort, simply enjoying the sound of the waves breaking along the dock and the calls of a seagull from somewhere further down the beachfront. A gentle breeze still blew off the water, blowing my billowy sundress out from my legs. Unlike when I arrived, I stuck to the deck this time so I didn’t get sand in my favorite strappy sandals. I doubted the restaurant would appreciate it if I showed up barefoot—even if they didn’t have a sign that said, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” it was still tacky.
The resort boasted a myriad of places to eat, but since it was my first evening, I planned on celebrating. I was on vacation, the one I’d dreamed of forever. Tonight was definitely a special occasion. I’d perused all the choices back in my room and chose a grill called Salt Water. Fine dining and an ocean view to enjoy while I ate—it sounded perfect.
As I approached the maître d’ podium, a man bumped my shoulder as he hurried around me. “Table for one, please.” I stopped and stared. What a prick!
The host glanced at me then back to him. “Do you have a reservation, sir?”
“No, I was tied up with business most of the day,” the man said with a huff as he shifted on his feet. “I didn’t get a chance to call.”
The maître d’ shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’re booked. Might I suggest the Thai restaurant? I know they have free tables this evening.” The host’s eyes returned to me. “Do you have a reservation, miss?”
With a careful step forward, I nodded. “Yes, Ellie Barrett.” I sneaked a peek at the man beside me. His eyes flickered to me before they returned to the host, whose finger trailed along the iPad he held tilted toward him.
“Ah, yes.” The host picked up a menu and held out his arm. “If you’ll follow me.”
That was when the man turned, his crystal blue eyes meeting mine, making me pause and swallow a gasp. Were those natural? I’d never seen a shade that clear and vibrant. I’d be willing to bet they’d probably match the shade of the water if it wasn’t so dark outside. I started to step past him, but something stopped me. Who knew what that something was, but I simply couldn’t leave him standing there. “Would you care to join me for dinner?”
His eyebrows drew down a little in the middle. “You wouldn’t mind?”
“I’m dining alone, and I’m sure the table will be large enough for two. If you don’t mind sharing with a stranger, I don’t mind either.”
I almost startled at how his face transformed when a small smile cracked the stern façade. I clenched my hands at my sides to keep from fanning myself. Good Lord, he was good looking! Two dimples peeked from his cheeks, his eyes crinkled a little at the edges, and most women would kill for those eyelashes. They were the longest I’d ever seen on a man. I even had eyelash envy! With his sculpted face, striking eyes, and dark brown hair, very few women would have had a dry chin in his presence.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’d be happy to join you.”
The maître d’ took one more menu from the stack and showed us to a table along the edge of the decking. I stopped and stared at the unencumbered view of the sand and sea until the maître d’ pulled out my chair and saw us seated and looking over the evening’s selections before hurrying away.
“Thank you again for sharing your table.”
I looked up from my menu and relaxed back into my seat. “I’m happy to do it. As I said, it’s just me, I have the room, and I don’t mind the company.”
He held his hand over the table. “William.”
“Ellie,” I said. I feigned shifting as I leaned forward so I could press my damp palm against the cushion of the chair. I would not shake his hand with sweaty palms! “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” He cleared his throat while he scratched the back of his neck. “I’m sorry for pushing ahead of you back there. It’s really nice of you to invite me to share your table considering how rude I was.”
“Do you always shove women out of the way when you’re hungry? Should I keep a look out for you in the future? Take a peek over my shoulder before I serve myself from the breakfast buffet?”
His deep chuckle traveled to the pit of my stomach where it caused a sudden flip. “Perhaps someone else might need to keep an eye out, but I’ll make sure I don’t bowl you over again. I promise.”
“I appreciate that,” I said with a laugh as I picked up the wine menu. “Would you like to share a bottle of wine? I thought I’d order some Prosecco.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “Are you celebrating?”
“Actually, yes. I’ve been saving up for this trip, and I’m finally here. I think it’s a good reason to break open some bubbly.”
“How long have you been planning this?”
“Since I graduated college. My sister, my best friend, and I started our own company, and when we started making a profit, I began to put a certain amount away from my earnings every month—so about six years. We’ve also been saving up for a better office space so it’s taken a little longer than it would otherwise.”
He opened his mouth to respond, but the waiter appeared seemingly from nowhere, took our drink order, and bustled off.
William leaned back in his chair. “What exactly do you do?”
Every muscle in my back stiffened. Most men liked to poke fun at my job. I was on vacation. I didn’t want to spend my first evening defending my profession. “I’m a wedding planner.”
“Really?” he said, leaning forward and resting his forearms on the table. “I’ve always wondered what type of degree someone needed to do that.”
“You don’t necessarily need a degree, but business, design, and public affairs are typically helpful. I studied design, my sister studied communications, and Charlie double-majored in business and finance.”
“I take it she handles the bottom line,” he said with a crooked grin.
“Pretty much. So, what is it you do?” He didn’t make a joke, comment that I planned occasions for lazy people or bash romance . . . yet. It was still a good time to change the subject, just in case.
The waiter returned and set to work serving our Prosecco. William glanced up at the movement but quickly returned to me.
“I own a construction company. We deal in new builds, custom floor plans, and such. The company originally belonged to my father. I earned my degree in architecture and took over when he wished to retire.” He sipped the wine set in front of him and gave a nod for the server to continue.
I snuck a peek at his left hand. I couldn’t help it! He was completely out of my league, but a girl could dream, couldn’t she? No ring and no tan line from one either, so he was unmarried. Why would someone who looked like that and was obviously successful still be single? “Are you here on your own as well?” It was a reasonable question. Hopefully, I didn’t sound like I was fishing for information on a potential girlfriend or even boyfriend somewhere out there.
“No, I needed to get away. My father’s filling in for me while I take some time for myself. He insisted.” He gave a light laugh. “I saw no reason to argue with him.”
“I know what you mean.” The bubbles from my wine tickled my tongue as I swallowed.
“So, let me ask you a very important question.” He gave me a sidelong glance with a slight upturn of his lips. It was all I could do to keep my knees from knocking together. “What do you think of books?”
I leaned against the arm of my chair and tilted my head. “That’s a serious question. I actually read more than I watch television.”
“But what do you prefer to read?” He relaxed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you read about sparkly vampires, thrillers, boy wizards, or romantic earls in whatever completely non-romantic era?”
A burst of a laugh escaped before I could prevent it. “I’ve never read anything with sparkly vampires, I’ve read a few thrillers, I love to read about boy wizards and their quests, and I will sometimes read about romantic earls. If it’s well-written, I’ll read it.”
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am you don’t care for sparkly vampires.”
I lifted my eyebrow. Yes, I was flirting and I didn’t care. What did I have to lose? “And what do you read, sir? Biographies, legal dramas, or maybe you enjoy those romantic earls.”
He grinned and shook his head. “I’ve never read a story with an earl or even a viscount.”
The waiter returned for our food order, but as soon as he was gone, we picked up where we left off. William wasn’t just easy on the eyes, but he was also easy to talk to. He read a lot and it definitely showed. Dinner with him proved to be more interesting than most of the dates I’d had in the last five years. Yes, I possessed a sad and pathetic love life. The best prospect I’d had in a long time was a stranger I’d met in the middle of paradise and probably would never see again. Yet, something about him tugged at me—not literally, of course. I couldn’t explain it another way if I tried.
When the meal came, the food was cooked to perfection, and we ordered another bottle of wine. Even with the interruptions, our conversation never faltered once.
When the server brought the bill, I reached for it, but before I could so much as lay a finger on the edge, William scooped it up and signed it.
“How much do I owe you?” I edged forward in an attempt to see what was written, but he curled the paper toward him. I’d thought we’d split the tab. As much as I could wish it was, tonight wasn’t a date.
He smiled and shook his head. “It’s on me. You don’t know how much I appreciate your offer to share the table, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having company for dinner. Thank you.”
“I had a great time, too, but I never expected you to pay.”
He held up the tray, which the server grabbed as he passed. “It’s done. Maybe we’ll be able to eat together again during our trip. You can pay then.”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
“Great!” He stretched his arms over his head. “I would love to stay and talk some more, but I’m still a bit jet-lagged from yesterday.”
If I was being honest, today’s travel was beginning to wear on me as well. The conversation had been amazing, but eventually, I would fall asleep on the table if we stayed so I followed his lead and stood. “I know what you mean. It took a couple of long plane rides to get here. Between that and the wine, I’m sure I could fall asleep in a matter of seconds.”
We didn’t talk as we strolled from the restaurant and down the dock in the direction of the villas, but the silence wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. Instead, it was relaxed and oddly like it was supposed to be that way. He stood tall while he walked casually with his hands in the pockets of his pants. We both gazed out over the water where the moon hung low at the horizon.
When I started to veer onto the path to my villa, I pointed. “I’m this way.”
He peered down the walkway with his brow furrowed. “Really? So am I.”
We turned and walked steadily until we reached my door. I faced him and sort of pointed toward my suite. “This is me.” At his nod, I held up my hand in a wave, instantly wanting the water under the dock to suck me in. I must’ve looked ridiculous. “Thank you for a lovely evening.”
He nodded and glanced down to his feet then back at me. “Good night, Ellie.”
I smiled and backed inside while I opened the door behind me. “Good night.”
Howdy y’all! It’s been a while, and I hope everyone is well and happy. I’ve been quite busy writing (something very new for me) and proofing my latest audiobook. Exciting things are on the way, and the That Perfect Someone audiobook will be first up. Every chapter has been checked for errors and it’s now up to ACX to approve the files. I even have a sample!!!
Sara Jo Elice was a lot of fun to work with and I think she did an incredible job. Once the audiobook is released, I’ll post again to let everyone know. 022
Happy Monday! I hope everyone had an amazing weekend. I thought I’d give you something fun to start your week off–a sale! From today throughs April 14th, Confined with Mr. Darcy is only 99¢. I’m going to post an excerpt below for you to enjoy. If you already own and love Confined with Mr. Darcy, don’t forget my new modern, That Perfect Someone.
As soon as William Darcy’s foot hit the pavement, he paused. “What am I doing?” He shook his head and strode towards the front steps of the old Victorian home in London. Before his foot landed on the first step, he pivoted sharply on his heel and started back to his car, turning right back around before he stepped from the kerb. “Gah!” he growled, making a woman stare at him as though he had three heads and smoke coming from his ears. The woman pulled her little girl closer and quickly passed almost bumping into a ground floor window box, its daffodils and hyacinths basking in the March sun. The child continued to skip happily, oblivious to his ranting and raving. “Obviously, I’m going mental,” he muttered.
He’d told her sister Jane he’d do this, so he had to, right? He had an obligation. He’d tied himself into it. Who was he kidding? He was really doing this due to his not-so-stalkerish obsession with her sister. He’d turn back twenty times on his trip to Pemberley if he didn’t ensure Elizabeth was at least okay. He’d only been in love with her for a year or so. A painful, dragging hot needles across your skin year.
Darcy jogged up the steps and stopped at the door intercom system, reading down the list of names: Newnham . . . Oliver . . . Deaton . . . However, before he reached the name he searched for, a woman exited the door and he scooted inside, running up the flight of stairs to the first floor. He rounded the bannister and the flat stood directly in front of him. Music filtered into the corridor from her flat, so he knocked loudly in order to be heard and held his breath. The music softened and he knocked a little harder, as if the noise needed emphasis.
“Darcy?” She must’ve checked through the peephole first, her voice muffled by the door until it opened. When she appeared in the doorway, her dark eyes wide, he shifted on his feet. Lord, she was beautiful, even in that ratty, oversized hoodie and leggings. “Has something happened with Charles and Jane?”
He swallowed hard. Standing in front of the woman who’d owned a starring role in his every fantasy for the past year as well as every nightmare for the last month was hard enough without summoning the courage to speak. “No, they’re fine. Bingley managed to sort out two seats on the next flight home to England. They’ll land in Manchester in a few hours.” With the Greek sun, a seaside view, a pool, a hot tub, and the woman of his dreams, Darcy wouldn’t have been too keen to travel in a cramped airplane for the five- or six-hour trip, but Bingley and Jane had obviously had their reasons for wanting to return to the U.K.
“Thank goodness,” said Elizabeth, all breathy and pressing her hand to her chest. He could think of a million ways he’d love to hear that voice, but this wasn’t one of them.
He cleared his throat and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’ve offered Bingley and your sister the use of the old gamekeeper’s cottage at Pemberley to quarantine and to continue their honeymoon for the next few weeks. I’m leaving for Pemberley directly. Since you work from home already, I thought you might prefer to be in the country, and closer to Jane at the same time.”
The words had rushed out in one long, rambling mess. He couldn’t speak and behave normally around this woman! He shoved his hands further into his pockets, his shoulders hunching around his ears. Could he be any more awkward?
“You’re inviting me to Pemberley?” The words were slow and evenly spaced. If he couldn’t gather her disbelief at the way she spoke, her jaw hung slightly lax and her high eyebrows screamed volumes. “If this pandemic continues as some are predicting, I could be there indefinitely.”
“I understand that, but Pemberley is large enough that you can hide in your rooms for the duration if you want. When I spoke to Bingley, Jane said you couldn’t work at Longbourn because of your younger sisters. You’d have peace and quiet when you need it at Pemberley as well as the ability to walk outside whenever you want without running into half of the city.”
She glanced back over her shoulder before shaking her head. “What about my cat? I can’t just leave Tilney here by himself for all that time. I also can’t ask my neighbour to feed him for that long either.”
“So bring him with you. I’ll help you pack anything you want. He can wander the house, or if you’re more comfortable, you can have a suite of rooms to yourself so he’s easier to find.” They’d never had a cat in the house at Pemberley. Hopefully, he didn’t shed too badly else Mrs. Reynolds would have a right fit about cleaning up the hair.
Elizabeth opened and closed her mouth two or three times. After her scathing refusal of his invitation for a weekend in Paris during the Rosings Book Festival last month, he knew she didn’t think much of him, but he’d emailed her that evening to explain their misunderstandings. Perhaps his words had held more venom than he’d thought. Would she really prefer remaining in London? Boy, he felt like an arse right now.
“I apologise for bothering you,” he said quickly. “If you’d like to join us, you’re welcome at any time.” He ran a hand through his hair as he turned to make his escape.
When he pivoted back around, she stood in the hallway. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. You surprised me is all. I’d prefer to be in the country and near Jane, but I need to pack. I also have food that could spoil from my last delivery. Since I can’t write at Longbourn, I’d planned to hunker down for as long as possible.”
“We can bag up your groceries and bring them with us, or you can give them to a neighbour.” Her teeth scraped her bottom lip, making him fist his hands at his sides. If she had any idea of how that tiny habit turned him on, she’d keep her teeth clenched together all of the time.
“I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything in your car.”
“I’m driving the Range Rover. Pack whatever you need.”
~ * ~
Elizabeth sat as rigid as a Maypole in the passenger seat of Darcy’s Range Rover while she watched the motorway in front of them. She’d agreed to spend however long this pandemic would take at Pemberley—at Pemberley with him. No, she hadn’t really wanted to be cooped up in her flat for a month or more while they “flattened the curve,” but did she really want to spend that time with Darcy?
Jane had insisted all along that he wasn’t as bad as Elizabeth thought, but the man knew how to press every button she possessed—no, strike that—punch the bloody hell out of every button she possessed. She glanced at him, studying his profile for a moment, until he started to turn and she whipped her gaze back in front of them.
“Are you cold?”
“Huh?” She jerked her head to face him. “Oh, no. I’m fine. Thank you.”
“I appreciate you helping me pack some clothes for Bingley and Jane.” When he learnt she had a key to the couple’s flat, they’d grabbed a few warmer clothes for the two of them. The shorts and bikinis Charles and Jane had packed for Santorini wouldn’t work very well for spring weather in Derbyshire.
“It was a good idea,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll be chuffed to bits that you considered it.”
“We can stop by the cottage on the way up to the house and drop off the bags. I brought him a work laptop from the office as well.” His eyes turned back to the road.
“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”
“He wouldn’t be Bingley if he didn’t.”
She chuckled, but it came out as the tensest sound she’d ever heard. “He’s a very cheerful bloke.”
“He’s been that way for as long as I’ve known him.”
“He said the two of you met at Cambridge.” She rubbed her sweaty palms down her leggings.
Darcy checked his wing mirror. “We had a lot of our classes together.” Rather than watch his face, her gaze had migrated to his broad shoulders and further to where his biceps pulled his sleeve taut.
“Don’t you have a little sister?” she asked. She was going to hell. She was checking out his body and asking about his little sister. How depraved could she get?
“I do. Georgiana’s sixteen. You’ll meet her when we get there.”
Elizabeth trained her traitorous eyes on his face. “She’s not in school?”
“Her college is allowing her to take her classes online because of her asthma. Mrs. Reynolds is bringing her home as we speak.”
“I’m sorry, but who is Mrs. Reynolds?”
He smiled and took a quick peek at her. “She’s the Pemberley housekeeper, but she’s more like a mum to us most of the time. And don’t be sorry. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
She dropped her head back against the seat and stared at the road ahead. She’d agreed to this so she could get out of London and have the ability to eventually see Jane. If only things weren’t so uncomfortable between her and Darcy! After all, she hadn’t seen him since the Rosings Book Festival. Ugh! She’d said such nasty things to him too. She wrapped her arms around herself. How was she ever going to apologise?
“Are you sure you’re not cold?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I promise.”
He adjusted the temperature anyway before he returned his attention to the road. That was when silence fell once more—awkward, painful silence. How long could making a vaccine possibly take?