Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter: ~ A Pride and Prejudice Variation ~ / Joana Starnes,

When Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures are interrupted by the bearer of distressing news from Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is compelled to accept an offer she would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. An offer of marriage from the all-too-proud Mr Darcy.

Yet how is she to live with a husband she hardly knows and does not love? Will she continue to feel trapped in a marriage of convenience while events conspire to divide them? Or would love grow as, day by day and hour after hour, she learns to understand the man she married, before she loses his trust and his heart?

Given the ‘early marriage’ premise, the issue of growing affection and intimacy is central to the story. The relevant scenes are not graphic, but the novel does address mature themes.

Excerpt from 'Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter' - a journey from duty into love.

His hand came up to cup her cheek, his fingertips stroked her hair and he smiled again. A heartbreakingly warm smile.

“There is so much I do not know of you. What joy it will be to discover.”

“And I of you. It was quite a surprise to hear you were contemplating kissing me as far back as November.”

“I should have. What a foolish waste of five months of happiness.”

“I am very glad I make you happy,” she said quietly, and found with some surprise that she was in earnest.

“You know you do. More than I ever thought possible,” Mr Darcy whispered hoarsely and reached to lift her off the sofa and bring her close, ensconced in a tight embrace. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around his neck, abandoning herself to his kisses, only to find guilt welling afresh when his lips left her skin just for long enough to whisper, “My love, you are everything.”

‘Do not say it, oh, do not say it!’ she felt the strongest urge to caution him. ‘Do not give me so much power over you.’

How unspeakably odd it felt to hear him openly avow it, after his reserve of full six months’ standing. It was as if everything he had held in check was now offered without hesitation, unstoppably coming out in one rush after another, now that all reason for concealment was removed. It was overwhelming to discover that all this wealth of feeling had been there for so long, and she had noticed nothing.

Her heart twisted in sudden compassion – the last sentiment she had imagined Mr Darcy would inspire in her, and for the least expected reason. Did he not see it was dreadfully unwise to reveal quite so much of himself to her? That it would make him vulnerable in the extreme and put him in the greatest danger, were she so heartless as to use it against him? Surely he did not think her equally in love, to trust her so implicitly with every formerly hidden feeling! What blow must it be to him, were the truth of her deep-held reservations ever to come to light. What burden of responsibility on her, to carefully conceal it from so astute a man.

Unspeakably odd too that she should fret so much over sparing Mr Darcy’s feelings, after spending months with the firm conviction he had none. Not for her, nor for the world in general. How aptly he had put it, all that time ago, when he had remarked that her greatest fault was her propensity to wilfully misunderstand...

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