In celebration of the one year anniversary of A Holiday to Remember, I am reducing the price for both of my Pride and Prejudice Inspired Modern Novellas to ninety-nine cents. These two books are light-hearted, low-angst JAFF stories filled with music, delicious desserts and Happy Endings! Check out the opening scene for each of my books here, and in the next blog try out some of Lizzy’s delicious recipes. Enjoy and Happy Reading! Jen Red ♫
From Chapter One: Meryton Academy for the Performing Arts, present day
“Liz Bennet! Please tell me I didn’t hear what I just thought I heard!” Charlotte Lucas burst through the doors of the choir room and marched straight to the keyboard where Elizabeth was working out the final arrangements for A Holiday to Remember—part of the music academy’s final showcase before the winter break.
“Char, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m kind of on a deadline here. Uh … you do remember I have a major rehearsal at six o’clock tonight?” She arched a questioning eyebrow in her friend’s direction before entering the final chords on the master lead sheet in her computer.
“Right, but for your information, Mr. Billy Collins just told everyone in the teacher’s lounge he has a big date with you on New Year’s Eve. He says he’s escorting you to the Pemberley Foundation’s charity gala at Forest Ridge. What gives? Don’t those tickets start at five hundred a pop? Not to mention any woman who would dare to go out with that nutter would have to be a marble short.”
Elizabeth stopped what she was doing and burst into laughter. “Char, do you honestly think BC would actually shell out that kind of money just to have a date with me? The man is so tight he probably wouldn’t spend five dollars on his own mother. Don’t worry. The Vocalteens were asked to perform at the gala and will be doing the opening act right after dessert. Since Reeves will be out of town, I’m making do with Billy-boy to run sound. You’re welcome to join us if you don’t have a date. I can always use an extra chaperone. Plus, after the kids leave, the adults are invited to stay and enjoy the rest of the party. There’s going to be a live band, dancing, loads of food and some kind of a silent auction. It could be fun, even without dates.”
“Sorry, Liz. As a matter of fact, I do have a date.” Charlotte straightened up and fluttered her eyelashes in jest. “And … as much as I’d like to hobnob with the rich and famous, Brexton Denny is taking me to the Signature Room to celebrate the New Year. Who knows, this might turn out to be my Holiday to Remember, if you don’t mind me borrowing the title from your medley.”
“Go right ahead. The Signature Room is pretty impressive. Is there any chance your Mr. Denny might finally be getting serious?”
“Not to my knowledge. Still, there’s no way I’m going to pass up a date with a buff trainer from the fitness club, fireworks over Lake Michigan, and a kiss at midnight.”
“A kiss at midnight,” Elizabeth sighed, kind of dreamy-eyed. “Aunt Maddy says being kissed at midnight by someone special is magical, and although I’ve yet to meet that perfect someone, I believe her.”
“Girl, you’ve been watching way too many holiday romance movies on your favorite channel, if you ask me. I could never be like you. At any rate, if you need an escort, you can always ask my brother. I know Johnny isn’t ideal, but he’s okay in a pinch. On second thought, what about that cute drummer from the music store? Didn’t you go out with him a couple of times? Maybe you can take him.”
“George Wickham?! I think not! And no, we never dated. Char, your memory fails you. I only agreed to sing backups for that smooth talker’s band at Lollapalooza last summer because he was desperate. Believe me; dating was not part of the chord chart. Besides, I’m hardly interested in a fly-by-night drummer or any freelance musician for that matter. And I’m definitely considering adding your brother to my no-go list of men. If Johnny stands me up for one more transmission or any other mechanical failure, the man is toast. As it turns out, I’ll probably hand him his marching orders once he escorts me to Charles Bingley’s holiday party on Friday. Who knows, I may end up following Jane’s lead and using her professional dating service after all. I mean, who could complain about Mr. Bingley?”
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely! Charles is exceptional. He’s considerate and has a great sense of humor. Plus, he brings Jane flowers, sends her cards, and takes her out to dinner, concerts, company functions, yada, yada…. And to top it all off, it was Charles Bingley who recommended the Vocalteens for the Pemberley gig. As one of the corporate lawyers who work for the foundation, he was happy to submit my PR materials to the marketing director. Mr. Reynolds thinks our Holiday to Remember medley will be perfect for the charity gala.”
“I agree; it’s bound to be a hit. The kids are already looking pretty good, and you still have until next Thursday to pull it all together for the showcase. Speaking of the gala, I hear the CEO of Darcy Enterprises is pretty hot.” Charlotte wiggled her eyebrows as if in the know. “William Darcy has been in all of the tabloids lately. They say he’s some kind of aloof, mystery man—tall, dark, and handsome. I wonder if he’ll be there.”
“William Darcy?” Elizabeth frowned. “His sister, Georgiana, was studying piano with Aunt Maddy at the music store until….” Her voice trailed off. “Are you sure he’s connected to the foundation? Mr. Reynolds never mentioned him.”
“Small world! According to Google, the foundation is run by Darcy Enterprises.” Glancing at the wall clock, Charlotte changed the subject. “It looks like the bell is about to ring, so I’d better head over to my advanced ballet class. Do you still need help tonight with choreography for the opening number?”
“I’d really appreciate it, since I’m going to have my hands full with the pit orchestra. If you can take over while we run through my new arrangements, it would mean one less thing for me to juggle at practice.”
“No problem. I’ll be there. Catch you later.”
After Charlotte left, Elizabeth minimized her music program and quickly googled William Darcy, CEO of Darcy Enterprises. “I can’t believe it. It is him! So, Mr. Darcy,” she continued to babble while glaring at the computer screen. “Your Mr. Reynolds booked us for the gala. How was he to know you never wanted to see me again?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to make the most of it, won’t we?”
Elizabeth Bennet has a passion for baking and peanut butter happens to be her signature ingredient. William Darcy’s family owns Pemberley Network where she is a contestant in their next bake off. Will their newly found romance be complicated by a conflict of interest? Find out in A TASTE OF PEANUT BUTTER.
“A girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then.” Jane Austen ~ Pride and Prejudice
CHAPTER ONE: What Are Men Compared to Cookies, Cakes, and Peanut Butter?
O’Hare International Airport – Friday afternoon, late spring
“So, did you have to pay extra to check your overweight bag?” Jane Bennet stood with her hands on her hips and gave her younger sister a quizzical look. “I did—a total of one hundred dollars to be precise. Can you believe it? My bag was only nine pounds over the limit. Heck, I could have checked in an extra suitcase for that price. If only peanut butter didn’t weigh so much.”
Jane giggled. “Lizzy, you probably wouldn’t have had to pay a thing if you only left some of your baking pans and that ridiculous Chinese wok behind. Plus you wouldn’t have had to stuff so much in your carry-on and backpack.”
“What are you talking about? My flat is almost barren when it comes to kitchenware. Okay, I admit I probably could have gotten by without the wok even though I did promise my teammates from the bank that I’d cook Thai when we start working on our hospitality booth for Wimbledon. Believe me, by that time they will have had their fill of my practice desserts. Nevertheless, the bake off is coming up, and I need every single one of those baking pans if I’m going to keep practicing. I have big plans for my babies—chocolate peanut butter cream pie, peanut butter spice cake, not to mention my killer cheesecake. I only hope I don’t run short of peanut butter. The good stuff is like gold in the UK.”
“Now you listen to me, Elizabeth Anne Bennet! With the exception of the contest, you, my dear sister, are supposed to be taking a hiatus from cooking. Your roomy, Charlotte, is absolutely right. You will never get a decent guy to like you for the smart, intelligent, beautiful woman you are if you keep flaunting your cooking skills at every turn. Men aren’t normal when it comes to your culinary expertise. It’s like they’re on drugs or something. I’m tired of hearing about all the bozos who somehow think they’ve struck it rich with their own personal chef while forgetting how to treat you like a real date. I’d like to know, dear sister, when was the last time a guy friend invited you out to dinner instead of having you come over to his place with your apron in hand.”
“Look, Jane,” she huffed. “I won’t stop being who I am. That’s all there is to it. With going to school and my internship at the UBI, I have a very stressful schedule. Not to mention, I have to suffer through a nasty test on derivatives as soon as classes resume. Then, in addition to Wimbledon, our team is organizing another gala event for early autumn. Believe me; I need a diversion after putting in so many hours between the bank and school. Feeding my friends is how I relax.”
Jane couldn’t resist giving her younger sister a big hug. “Okay, I understand. I just wish you would give Charlotte’s plan a try the next time you go out with a new guy. How hard could it be to refrain from talking about your hobby on the first date? Better still—wait till you’ve had three. You know what they say—the third time’s the charm. Sweetie, I would love to see you graduate from Elizabeth Bennet, personal cook, pal or surrogate sister to girlfriend extraordinaire!”
“I know.” She pouted.
“Hey, don’t give me that. I want assurance and a pinky promise that you’ll at least try.” The two laughed as they went through the ritual.
“All right, I promise, I’ll do my best. But if….”
“No buts! Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s my reader. See if you can squeeze it in your bag. I loaded it with my favourite, Pride and Prejudice. Maybe you can take a hint from your namesake and challenge yourself to find a real Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, Jane, I love how you have me giving up my cooking passion and meeting Mr. Darcy all in one fell swoop. You are without question one demanding sister!”
“Not really. I’m simply a romantic at heart, just like you. Now, get on through security. I’d better go before Dad gets a ticket out there in the mob.” The two sisters hugged, and Jane waved as she rushed toward the exit. “Don’t forget to text me once you get squared away on the other side. Love you!”
“Okay, Sis! I love you, too!” Elizabeth called as she clumsily lugged all of her things to the closest security checkpoint. Removing her sandals and pulling out all electronic devices from her backpack, she quickly filled two grey plastic holding bins and managed to hoist her overstuffed carry-on onto the conveyor belt.
Little did Elizabeth Bennet realize, however, that she was being closely eyed by a very interested party of the male persuasion. Captivated by the perky brunette, he had overheard her entire conversation and was now formulating his own plan.
Curious, I never thought of dating an American. She said that she is an intern at the UBI. I wonder why I haven’t ever seen her there. Of course, there are loads of interns at the bank. He couldn’t help smiling while candidly giving her the once over. Beautiful, long, dark, silky hair—nice. And her eyes…. I could easily get lost in those dark chocolate orbs if given the chance. Great figure and even more important, she cooks. I’ve never dated a woman who liked to cook. My dates would rather have me wine and dine them at expensive restaurants. Without a doubt, this Elizabeth is different from all the other Elizabeth Bennets I’ve ever met, or any other woman for that matter. She’s so … unpretentious, refreshing and obviously not a part of the corporate set. I wonder. Richard did suggest that I consider stepping out of my comfort zone for a change. Maybe….