Congratulations to Jean Burnett on the publication of Who Needs Mr Darcy? The adventures and exploits of the bad Miss Bennet.  Little, Brown / Sphere publish today and have secured some fantastic retail support including WH Smith and Waterstones.

Following the death of Mr Wickham, Who Needs Mr Darcy? follows the charming, lively and somewhat dastardly exploits of the youngest Bennet sister from Jane Austen’s internationally renowned Pride and Prejudice.

Chapter 1

Pemberley , September 1815

‘Darcy looked puzzled, ‘Are you unwell, Lydia?’  I looked up at him coyly and then fingered the red stones at my neck. I noticed that his eyes had fallen towards my bosom.

‘I am greatly perturbed about my future, dear brother,’ I sighed. ‘I could never be a burden to you or to the rest of my family, but my financial state is a parlous one. If I could manage to live quietly abroad on a reduced income I feel that would be the best solution.’

‘Abroad?’ Darcy yelped. He has all the horror of foreign parts that les rosbifs are noted for. You see I am already acquiring something of the French language.

‘Oh yes,’ I continued; ‘the cost of living is so much lower on the continent and I might offer English lessons to some genteel French families in order to supplement my paltry income. Do you not agree dear brother?’

At this point I contrived to lift my skirt discreetly so that a glimpse of a trim ankle in white silk hose flashed before my brother-in-law’s eyes. In the past this manoeuvre has been known to drive men mad with desire. In Darcy’s case his eyes began to swivel alarmingly before bulging in the manner I have often remarked on.

‘That will not be necessary!’ he said sternly, ‘I am prepared to make you an allowance that will enable you to live as a lady should, although not in any great luxury.’

‘Naturally,’ I murmured sotto voce.

‘However,’ he added; ‘there is no question of my sister-in-law living alone on the continent; it is unthinkable. Arrangements can be made for you to live closer to your parents at Longbourn.’

I hope he did not catch the look of horror that I could not repress at this suggestion. Some quick thinking was required. Fortunately, I had been married to a master of ious behaviour for three years. My brother-in-law would be child’s play in comparison.

‘I could not possibly live at Longbourn, dear brother. My father would not wish it and my mother would be mortified. If you were generous enough to make me an allowance I could not think of leaving Pemberley. I would stay here and make myself useful to my sister and yourself in any way possible. It would be my solemn duty.’

I stared mournfully at his face, watching the expressions of disgust and alarm passing over them. This was my opportunity.  ‘Of course, I have been offered an invitation for an extended stay with the Caruthers in London, friends from my husband’s regiment. Captain Miles is now retired from the army and his wife, Selena, is a dear friend….’ My voice trailed away and I watched to see whether he would clutch at this straw.

‘Well, er, umph,’ he spluttered, ‘that is a possible solution.’ He turned away abruptly; ‘we can discuss the details later. I have an appointment.’ I gazed after him glad that he could not see the face I made at his retreating back. Why must I be treated like a child solely because I am poor and female? If I had a reasonable pension my relatives might disapprove of my removal to France but they could do little to prevent it. I am a respectable widow – at least for the moment.

London… there could be worse fates for a single woman…’

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