Are you a fan of amazing Regency-set romance? How about Jane Austen? Or more currently, the web sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Well, now you can indulge all of these passions at once, by entering Pocket Books’ Facebook contest to win Kate Noble’s The Game and the Governess and Kate Rorick’s The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet. Why put these two together? Because Kate Noble is Kate Rorick is the amazing author of both these books!
And if for some reason you’re a little unsure about winning great books, let us tempt you with a peek of what’s inside…
from THE GAME AND THE GOVERNESS by Kate Noble:
No doubt, those who have said this have a deep wisdom about life, a spark of intelligence that recognizes inherent truths—or perhaps, simply the experience that proves the veracity of such a statement.
The Earl of Ashby had none of these qualities.
“Determined I was. And luckily, I came of age at the very right moment: I join the army, much to my great-uncle’s dismay—but two days later, Napoleon abdicates and is sent to Elba!”
What the Earl of Ashby did have was luck. In abundance. He was lucky at cards. He was lucky with the fairer sex. He was even lucky in his title.
“Of course, at the time, I did not think of it as lucky, although my great-uncle certainly did, I being the only heir to Ashby he could find in the British Empire. At the time I would have believed that the old man had marched to the Continent and locked Boney up himself to thwart me.”
It was nothing but luck that had the old Earl of Ashby’s son and grandson dying in a tragic accident involving an overly friendly badger, making the nearest living male relative young Edward Granville—or Ned, as he had always been called—the heir to one of the oldest earldoms in the country. It was just such luck that had the old earl swoop in and take little Ned away from the piddling town of Hollyhock and his mother’s genteel poverty at the age of twelve, and raise him in the tradition of the aristocracy.
“But then that French smudge manages to weasel his way off the island, and this time, true luck! I actually get to go to war! But the real luck was getting placed in the same regiment as Dr. Gray here. And— Oh, Turner, stop standing back in the shadows, this story is about you too!”
It was luck, and only luck, that found Ned Granville in the right place at the right time to save his friend and commanding officer, Captain John Turner, as well as seventeen others of their regiment on the last battlefield.
“So there we are in the hazy mist of battle on a field in Belgium, of all places—and thank God too, because I was beginning to think war was going to entirely be marching in straight lines and taking Turner’s and Gray’s money at cards—and suddenly, our flank falls behind a rise and takes a hail of fire from a bunch of Frenchies on top of it.
“So we’re pinned down, waiting for the runner with extra ammunition to arrive, when Turner spots the poor runner shot dead on the field a hundred feet away. And Turner, he jumps up before the rest of us can cover him, and runs out into the field. He grabs the ammunition and is halfway back before a bullet rips through the meat of his leg. There he is, lying on the field, and holding our ammunition. But all I see is my friend bleeding out—so of course, I’m the idiot who runs into the fray after him.”
His actions that day would earn him commendations from the Crown for his bravery. They would also earn Ned Granville his nickname.
“It was just luck that none of their bullets hit me. And once I got Turner back behind the line, and the ammunition to our flank so we could hold our position, we beat the enemy back from whence they came. The next morning, Rhys—Dr. Gray here—had patched Turner up enough to have him walking, and he came over, clapped me on the shoulder, and named me Lucky Ned. Been stuck with it—and him!—ever since.”
It was from that point on that “Lucky Ned”—and everyone else around him—had to simply accept that luck ruled his life.
And since such luck ruled his life, it could be said that Lucky Ned was, indeed, happy-go-lucky. Why bother with worries, when you had luck? Why heed those warnings about hiring your friends? Bah—so bothersome! It would be far more convenient to have a friend in a position of trust than to worry all the time that the servants would cheat you.
Yes, it might breed resentment.
Yes, that resentment might fester.
But not toward Ned. No, he was too good, too lucky for that.
Thus, Ned Granville, the Earl of Ashby, hired his best friend, John Turner, formerly a Captain of His Majesty’s Army, to the exalted post of his secretary.
And he was about to regret it.
To be fair, I wasn’t asleep yet anyway, since we just got home from the Gibson wedding about an hour ago. My mom is currently in a state of glee (or slumber. Gleeful slumber). Because, according to her joyous monologue on the way home, all of her pain and plotting were worthwhile as Mr. Bing Lee, admittedly good-looking wealthy type and recent homeowner, has now met and been smitten by one of her daughters.
I, however, am in a state of unbridled annoyance, because of one single person.
Specifically, William Darcy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The wedding ceremony was lovely. Outdoors, in the afternoon. Why live in a sleepy coastal central California town if not to take advantage of the weather for your nuptials? Our longtime friend Ellen pledged to love, honor, and cover her new husband on her work’s health insurance plan for as long as they both shall live, while Ellen’s mother sniffled her way through the ceremony—her sniffles only slightly softer than my mother’s wails. (Note: Ellen Gibson was in the same class as Jane since first grade; her mother and ours cut up orange slices for soccer practice together. Mom can barely hold her head up in front of Mrs. Gibson now, as her daughters remain tragically unwed.)
Of course, during the entire ceremony, my mother was craning her neck across the aisle to better stare at Bing Lee and his companions. Luckily, he didn’t notice, but his overly tall, stuck-up friend certainly did. He frowned at us from beneath this ridiculously hipster newsboy cap. Although I can’t even be sure it was a frown now. From what I saw of him that evening, his face just stays that way.
Regardless, the newlyweds kissed, the recessional played, and it was time to party! But before we could even get to the car to drive to the lovely restaurant overlooking the town that was hosting the reception, Mom had pulled Jane and Lydia (okay, I went along, too) into Bing’s path and got herself the introduction she’d been yearning for.
“You must be Mr. Lee! Or is it Mr. Bing? I know some countries put the last name first but I never know which!”
Yes. That actually happened.
Luckily, the gentleman in question just smiled, introduced himself, and shook my mother’s hand. Then, he turned his eyes to Jane.
And they never left.
“Hi, I’m Bing.”
“I’m Jane,” she said. “It’s so nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too.”
And then, they just stood there. Basically holding hands. Until someone behind Bing cleared his throat.
Someone in a newsboy cap. And a bow tie. (The bow tie I can forgive, but seriously, who wears a newsboy cap to a wedding?)
“This is my sister, Caroline, and my friend William Darcy.”
“Hi . . .” Caroline Lee said in a slow but polite drawl. While their friend Darcy might be a little on the hipster side, Caroline was a little on the my-hair-is-perfectly-shiny-and-don’t-you-like-my Prada-sunglasses side. But at least she had the decency to say “hi.”
“Bing, the driver will be blocked in if we don’t get going soon,” said Darcy.
“Right,” Bing replied, this prompting him to finally drop Jane’s hand and notice the rest of us. “I guess we’ll see you all at the reception?”
My mother could not get to the reception venue fast enough. She made my dad weave through all the traffic, run two stop signs, and almost cause an accident just so she could get to the card table first and fidget things around so Jane was sitting only a table away from Bing and Co.
Meanwhile, I was happy to sit next to Charlotte.
“I saw your mom finally managed to corner the elusive Bing Lee after the ceremony,” she said, between bites of crab puffs.
I will say that the Gibsons really know how to throw a party. It was a beautiful room, with chandeliers, old-Hollywood table markers, a jazz trio near the dance floor, and some insanely delicious food, as evidenced by Char’s devotion to the crab puffs.
My eyes immediately went to the table where Bing sat. Or rather, where he leaned over to the next table, talking to Jane. She blushed and smiled.
“And it looks like he picked out his favorite Bennet already,” Charlotte observed. “Jane has thoroughly charmed him.”
“Jane thoroughly charms everyone,” I replied.
“Yeah, but maybe she’s charmed, too, this time.”
I continued watching. There was a lot of blushing and smiling and nodding going on between those two. But . . . “My sister is not going to fall immediately for a guy my mother picked out for her. She’s too smart for that.”
But Charlotte just shrugged and took another sip of her vodka tonic. “I’ll bet you drinks that she spends the whole evening talking to him.”
“It’s an open bar,” I noted. One at which Lydia had already parked herself.
“Hence how we can afford the bet. Every hour that she spends with him, you have to fetch me a drink. Every hour they spend apart, I fetch you one.”
Just then, Darcy leaned over and said something to Bing, which brought his attention away from Jane and made Bing’s smile slide off his face. Like he had been admonished.
“At least Jane caught the eye of someone with manners,” I grumbled, “and not his friend. What’s his deal, anyway?”
“Who—William Darcy?” Charlotte asked. “According to my mom, he’s an old school friend of Bing’s. Apparently he inherited and runs some entertainment company, headquartered in San Francisco.”
“Oh, yeah, that bastion of entertainment, San Francisco.” (I have a dry wit.) “And by ‘runs’ I assume you mean he flips through the quarterly reports in between daiquiris on the beach.”
“He’s a little pale to be a beach bum.” (Charlotte’s wit may be even dryer than mine.) “And a bit too serious to be a trust-funder. Also, you should consider yourself lucky that your mother is not actively targeting him, too. The Darcys are worth twice as much as the Lees.”
I eyed Charlotte. “Why do you know this?”
“Mrs. Lu wouldn’t mind my marrying rich, either.” Charlotte took a final sip of her drink and held out the empty glass to me. “Oh, look, Bing is talking to Jane again. Why don’t you go and preemptively get me another vodka tonic?”
Charlotte was proved right about Bing and Jane. They spent the whole evening talking to each other. And when they weren’t talking, they were dancing.
But she was wrong about something else. My mother was going to actively target William Darcy. I saw the moment it happened. She was sitting with Mrs. Lu, gabbing away, her eyes on Bing and Jane. Then I saw her pump her fists in triumph. Mrs. Lu, not to be outdone, leaned over and whispered something in my mom’s ear. My mother’s eyes immediately zipped to where William Darcy was standing against a wall, frowning (of course) and typing on his phone.
Then her eyes zipped toward me.
That was when I decided to hide. I found a nice spot on a far wall, with some decent shadowing. With any luck my mother would not be able to find me and instead target her matchmaking onto Lydia, who was currently grinding against two different guys on the dance floor.
Of course, I don’t have any luck.
I was pretty happy by my wall. I watched Jane and Bing dance. I watched my mom try to talk to Darcy and get a literal cold shoulder. And then . . . I watched my steely-eyed mother march over and whisper something in the bride and groom’s ears.
“All right, everyone!” Mrs. Gibson called out. “Time for the bouquet toss!”
Oh, dear God.
This is every unattached person’s least favorite part of any wedding. Might as well herd all us single folk into a pen to be gawked at like an exhibit at a zoo: Look! Unmatched pairs, in the wild!
But I could feel my mother’s eyes staring daggers at me. I would be disowned if I didn’t participate.
I found Charlotte in the crowd of reluctant young ladies. We shared a shrug of sympathy.
Jane came up next to me. “Hi! Isn’t this such a wonderful wedding?” She glowed. If infatuation were radioactive, she would be Marie Curie. “I’m so happy. For Ellen and Stuart,” she clarified.
“Aw, Ellen and Stuart are so super cute together, it’s gross!” Lydia said from my other side. “But Stu has the hottest friends—which one do you think I should sneak out to the car with?”
Lydia finger-waved to the two inebriated bros she’d been dancing with.
Since there was only a 50 percent chance she was joking, I opened my mouth to say something that would hopefully cajole my younger sister into not banging some random dude in the car we all had to ride home in, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a bouquet of peonies headed right for my face.
Holding up my hands was a natural defensive reaction.
So there I was, bouquet in hand and a bunch of relieved single women around me clapping. I noticed my mother in the crowd beyond. She was giving the bride two thumbs up.
Next up: the guys. One guess as to which self-inflicted social pariah stood as far away as possible from the crowd but still got the garter slingshot into his chest.
We locked eyes. He looked grim. To be fair, I’m sure I did, too.
As the music started up and the dance floor cleared for this most terrible of traditions, I was actually feeling a little sorry for William Darcy. He was clearly not comfortable. He didn’t dance well—just sort of swayed in time to the music, and kept me at arm’s length like a seventh grader, his chin going back into his face like a turtle trying to hide. (I’m not a professional dancer by any means, but I enjoy a good turn across the floor with someone fun, and I regularly kick Lydia’s butt in Just Dance.) He also did his best to avoid my eyes. Maybe he was just a little socially awkward. After all, Bing seemed fun and outgoing, and Darcy is Bing’s friend, so there has to be something more to him, right?