Jane Austen meets Christmas in Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe which is the latest novel by Melissa de la Cruz.
Darcy Fitzwilliam simply doesn’t have time to fall in love. But this Christmas, a kiss under the mistletoe will change everything…
As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy’s only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she’s too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas… let alone to allow romance into her life.
But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet – the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy’s enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry… well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love – or will her pride, and Luke’s prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?
Melissa and the blog tour for her new book join me today and to celebrate the release of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, Melissa and Hodder & Stoughton have shared an extract. Enjoy.
A Taylor Swift cover of “Last Christmas,” originally recorded by Wham! in 1986, strummed from the stereo of the sleek, black town car, where Darcy was sitting in the backseat. Over the driver’s seat she could see Edward’s head bobbing up and down as they drove over the bumpy terrain, and it was somewhat of a comfort. Edward had worked for the Fitzwilliam family since Darcy was a small girl, and though she told herself over and over that she hadn’t missed anything about her hometown in the eight years since she’d fled, the truth was she had missed Edward.
Despite being only fifteen years older than she was, he had a grandfatherly twinkle in his blue eyes and an impressively sharp memory that she had always admired. He always remembered everything she told him. And she told him plenty, as he was the only person in her family she felt she could trust.
“She’s going to be okay,” Edward said from the front seat. “So you can wipe that worried look off your face, my dear.”
“Oh, I hope you’re right,” she said, chewing her bottom lip anxiously. “But you know how my mom is. She’ll never let people know if she’s suffering.”
“That’s true.” She watched his head bob up and down. “You know, you haven’t aged one bit,” he said, looking at her reflection in the rearview mirror.
“I know.” She tried to smile through her nerves. “You always told me if I kept scowling I’d have forehead wrinkles by twenty- five.”
“Now you’re twenty-nine and wrinkle free!” He chuckled. “What’s your secret, Miss Fitzwilliam?”
He never called her that. Darcy, Darce, the Darcinator, some- times Darce-Tastic, but never Miss Fitzwilliam—that was her mother’s name. Doing so now was a playful acknowledgment of the way she’d skyrocketed to a position of unfathomable power and status, in the time since he’d last seen her, that even her own blue-blooded family had never quite held. He was proud of her, she could tell, and she appreciated it. At least somebody from her old life was.
She swallowed hard, so unsure of how she’d be received in her family home. How should she act when she saw them all again? How did she used to act around them? Suddenly she couldn’t remember; suddenly she felt seized by anxiety, like this one interaction with her parents and brothers after eight years would make or break their relationship for the entire future.
From the outside, anyone would think that Darcy Fitzwilliam was doing unusually well on her own in New York City, and in many ways she was. But in her gut she knew something was horribly off, and when she’d got that middle-of-the-night phone call, she finally knew what was missing. Her glamorous Manhattan life was missing family, people to love and to be loved by. She’d hopped on the first flight home. Now, for the sake of at least making a good impression on Edward, she used all her energy to shake off the nervousness and said, “My secret? A lady never reveals her secrets, Mister Peterson.”
She turned then to face her refection. It was true: at twenty- nine and as partner at the second most successful hedge fund in NYC, she didn’t look a day over twenty-four. She was con – dent in her good looks and considered herself to be just as gor- geous as everybody told her she was. Her slender, heart-shaped face boasted elegantly chiseled cheekbones; a lightly freckled, ski-slope nose; big, stormy gray eyes shuttered by naturally long lashes; and a perfectly pouty set of pale pink lips. Now and then she started to think they were losing their youthful luster, and in those moments she’d briefly toy with the idea of getting them plumped. But the thought was always eeting, as she had far more important things on her mind. The real question for Darcy was not to plump or not to plump. No, it was something far less simple and far more troubling.
See, it is a truth universally acknowledged that any beautiful, brilliant, single woman who is rich as hell will be in want of a husband. She’d heard it time and time again.
“But Darcy, you could have any man in Manhattan!” her closest friend, Kate Myles, would despair from time to time. “Just pick the sexiest one and marry him.”
“Marry him?” Audrey Rooney, their third musketeer, would balk. “How about she starts by going on a date with him? The girl probably hasn’t seen a naked man in a decade. She could use a little fun.”
Darcy would just sit back and watch her friends assess her love life back and forth like a tennis match. That was back when she had time for friends.
And she’d get it from strangers, too. Cocktail party attendees and cabdrivers and doctors and reporters and TV repairmen and waiters and salespeople all wanted to know the answer to one question: Why are you—how are you—still single? And the question on Darcy’s mind: Why don’t I care?
When, from time to time, she had a few spare hours to analyze and assess her life, she would realize that it wasn’t that she didn’t ever care to settle down and get married; it was that she had less than zero interest in doing these things with anyone who didn’t make her heart absolutely melt. The way Darcy saw it, she’d have real passionate love or she would have none at all. Of course she preferred the thought of the former, but without it, she was prepared to settle on the latter. Anybody who perceived Darcy as coldhearted and callous had mis- understood her. The truth was that beneath her cool exterior was a very warm, very willing heart, waiting patiently to give itself to the right person. She just hadn’t found him yet.
The car wound through the dense woods of Pemberley, Ohio, light ltering through the skinny, shivering tree branches onto the gravelly road beneath them. They exited the woods and turned onto a quaint though elegant street lined with quintessen- tially Midwestern homes, followed by a quintessentially Midwest- ern church placed at the end of the street like a period at the end of a sentence. From there they turned onto a new street, a broader one, with homes that became increasingly grand in size and stature, and increasingly farther and farther apart. And at the very end of that road, where the street ended in the most expansive cul-de-sac you could imagine, was the Fitzwilliam mansion, looming not unlike a luxury ocean liner. The Fitzwilliam home was rusty brick red with one massive, round, white portico and two rows of twelve dormer windows. Elaborately conical topiary lined the cobblestone path leading up to the tall, black lacquered door. Darcy held her breath as they approached, trying not to think of the last time she’d walked out of that same door. Had it been a mistake? One she wouldn’t ever be able to take back?
Edward parked the car and walked around to the back to open Darcy’s door for her.
“You can relax, Darce,” he said. “They’ll all be happy to see you.”
Darcy nodded and walked up the cobblestone steps. She held her nger a half inch away from the pearlescent doorbell for sev- eral seconds, then pressed it quickly, before she had any more time to think.
The door swung open almost immediately and there stood Lorna Sheppard, the elderly housekeeper. She nodded her graying head formally at Darcy, welcoming her in.
“So good to see you, Miss Fitzwilliam,” she said kindly. “It’s been too long.”
“How is she?” Darcy blurted. She wanted to throw her arms around Lorna, who had practically raised her, but she worried that if she did so she might break down and cry on the spot, right then and there in the resplendent foyer, and that would just be unproductive.
“Stable, dear,” Lorna replied. “It will make her feel quite a deal better, knowing you’ll be home for Christmas for once.”
Darcy looked up and saw the gigantic wreath hanging above the symmetrically curved, double staircases. Christmas. For the past eight years she had lived in New York, all Christmas had meant was dry martinis and lavish of ce parties where she’d spend an hour or two swatting away the advances of much older men and trying not to look as bitter and grim as she felt. It meant nightly window-shopping extravaganzas on Fifth Avenue, which turned into actual shopping extravaganzas, during which she’d drop thousands on designer bags and shoes and glasses and gloves and jewelry, then take it all home and try it all on and fall asleep, alone, in front of Shark Tank reruns. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d spent Christmas Day with someone.
Actually, she didn’t have a great memory of any of the past eight Christmases at all. As far as she had been concerned, Christmas alone as the third wealthiest woman under twenty- nine in New York was a freebie day, a twenty-four-hour period in which she could do as she pleased, and so she started with the martinis sometime around ten in the morning and kept them coming until the next day, when it was time to sober up for work.
And now here she was, dragged back home for the holidays, just like she never wanted to be. Wanting to be near family and actually being near family were two completely different things. But standing here now, she found herself wondering what she’d been so afraid of.
“Is she upstairs?” Darcy asked.
“Yes, in the master bedroom.”
“And my dad?”
“He’s with her. Hasn’t left her side.”
“Of course not.” Darcy forced a smile and slipped awkwardly past Lorna.
She made her way up the stairs. The banisters were looped with festive gold ribbon and shimmery lametta; real poinsettia berries and fresh mistletoe were hanging from the chandeliers and door frames. Her life in New York was lled with plenty of luxuries and frills, but nothing like this. In New York there wasn’t enough room for such extravagant displays of wealth, and so the displays were restricted to a smaller space. As she strolled down the hallway to her parents’ bedroom, she took it all in—the baroque sconces and framed portraits of generations of Fitzwilliams, the ice-blue damask wallpaper and ceilings so high they looked like one big, never-ending, open white void as if seeing it for the first time.
When she came to the end of the hallway, she knocked lightly on the door, the same door she used to knock on in the middle of the night if woken by a nightmare or an unusual noise.
“Who’s there?” came her father’s voice from the other side. “It’s Darcy.”
Silence. Murmuring. Footsteps. Finally, the door opened, and she found herself face-to-face with her dad, John B. Fitzwilliam, looking just as stern and somber as ever, only now with what seemed to Darcy a look of disappointment and resentment layered on top. She gulped. Not much frightened Darcy Fitzwilliam, but her father definitely did.
“Well, well,” he said. “Look who it is.”
“Johnny, be nice to her.” This voice came from Darcy’s mother, who lay in a canopy bed, white as paper. A young nurse, maybe in her early twenties, stood by her side, and looked up to smile at Darcy.
Darcy awkwardly circled around her dad and power walked clumsily to the bed. She took her mom’s hand in her own.
“Mom!” she laugh-cried. “A heart attack? At sixty-five? You had me worried sick.”
“I tell her to fix up her diet,” Mr. Fitzwilliam mumbled. “She won’t give up those beignets.”
“I’m fine. I’m fine.” Mrs. Fitzwilliam smiled. “It’s all just a ploy to get my baby girl home for the holidays.”
“Very funny, Mom.” Darcy patted Mrs. Fitzwilliam’s hand and sat down by her side. “You know I’ve just been so . . . busy. I’m—”
“Yes, we know,” Mr. Fitzwilliam interrupted, then stared past her silently. She could imagine what he was thinking: You’re partner at the second-largest hedge fund in New York City, you’re practically a princess, you don’t have one single weekend or holiday to spare for your family.
“John,” Mrs. Fitzwilliam scolded, “I told you to be nice. You’ll give me another heart attack!”
“Well I’m sorry, dear, but it’s hard to be nice at a time like this.” He held his head high, unwilling to look Darcy in the eye. Darcy thought this quite childish but kept the opinion to herself.
“Darcy.” Mrs. Fitzwilliam looked up at her daughter. “I am so relieved to have you here, and I know how busy you’ve been.” Darcy hadn’t been home in eight years, but that hadn’t been the last time she’d seen her mom. Mrs. Fitzwilliam didn’t hold the same grudge against her daughter as Mr. Fitzwilliam did, and so she had own to New York City on three different occasions. The rst time: when Darcy broke up with her college boyfriend, Carl. The second time: when Darcy was hospitalized due to stress and lack of sleep. The third time: when Darcy was made partner of Montrose and Montrose, thus making it Montrose Montrose and Fitzwilliam. It had been a full year, and she realized, as she sat down at her mother’s side, just how much she had missed her. She had nothing to do with Darcy’s estrangement, after all. As far as Darcy was concerned, she was one of the good guys.
“You’re here just in time for the party.” Mrs. Fitzwilliam spoke softly, as if trying to save her voice.
“What party?” Darcy asked.
“We’ll see if you’re even well enough to throw a party,” Mr. Fitzwilliam cautioned.
“I told you, I’m fine. Even Dr. Law says I’m fine,” Mrs. Fitzwilliam insisted. “And it’s not like we can cancel on two hundred people, can we?”
“We can do whatever we want when it comes to preserving your health,” he replied.
“What party?” Darcy asked again.
“The annual Christmas party!” Just saying these words seemed to bring a delighted rosy color to her mom’s cheeks. “You didn’t think we had all these decorations strung up just for ourselves, did you?”
“No, I guess not,” Darcy said, feeling her hands grow sweaty.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Fitzwilliam asked. “You used to love our Christmas parties.”
“Yeah, when I was a kid.” Darcy’s fight-or- flight response was starting to kick in. “But I’m just . . . I’m not prepared for a party. I don’t have anything to wear.”
“You don’t have anything to wear?” Mr. Fitzwilliam laughed sourly. “You’re Darcy Fitzwilliam. Go to Bloomingdale’s; it’s less than a mile away.”
Darcy stuttered, “Oh, okay, but the thing is . . .” No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t think of a good excuse for not being able to make it to the party. She had own all the way out to the middle of nowhere (or so it seemed, compared to New York), and everyone knew she didn’t have any other plans.
“Yes?” Mr. Fitzwilliam raised his eyebrows at her.
“Okay, yeah,” she gave in. “Of course. I’ll get a dress.”
Mrs. Fitzwilliam clapped her hands together. “I’m so happy,
it’s almost like I didn’t have a heart attack!”
“But you did,” Mr. Fitzwilliam reminded her. “So let’s try not to get too excited just yet.”
“All right, all right.” Mrs. Fitzwilliam took a deep, calming breath. “Darcy, sweetheart, I know you’ve just traveled a long way. Maybe you’d like to take a bit to get settled? Maybe an after- noon nap would be nice.”
“I can have Lorna show you to your room,” Mr. Fitzwilliam added.
“Um.” Darcy was confused for a moment. “Why would I need her to show me where my room is?”
“Well, it has been quite a long time.”
“I see.” Darcy quietly took in the jab. “I think I’ll be just ne. But thanks for your concern, Dad.”
He gestured to the door as if to say Then go. There had been a part of her that thought maybe, after all these years, there was no way he could still be so mad, or so hurt, whichever it was. She closed the door behind her thinking, I guess I was wrong. Time, so far, hadn’t healed this wound.
Melissa de la Cruz is the author of many best-selling novels, including the Blue Bloods series; the Au Pairs series; the Ashleys series; and Angels on Sunset Boulevard. She is also a frequent contributor to Glamour, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
For more about Melissa, visit http://melissa-delacruz.com
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz was released on 17th October by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in most UK book shops and online. Click to view on Amazon.