Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Darcy Story

A while back I had posted about a story of mine that got rejected. People said they wanted to read it and I said I would post it. Someone reminded me that I never did, so here it is.

Finding Mr. Darcy

by Kate Willoughby

     Gillian wished that gloves weren’t part of her costume. She was nervous and her hands were sweaty.
     “I’ll never find him,” she said to her friend Sue.
     “Yes, you will. He’s already checked in. Look for a top hat.”
     Sue was an up and coming party planner. This Valentine’s Day costumed mixer was her promotional brainchild, a brainchild that had gone viral within the singles community of Woodland Hills. The rules were simple. If you wanted to go, you paid the fee and RSVP’d online. The catch was that you had to come as one half of a famous pair—Antony and Cleopatra, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Bonnie and Clyde, etc. When you arrived at the party, you were supposed to find and dance with your other half.
     Gillian had always loved Jane Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice was her favorite, so she wanted to go as Elizabeth Bennett, but although she’d posted her character/costume choice early, no one signed up as Mr. Darcy. Finally, on February thirteenth, Sue called—a Mr. Darcy was coming.
     “Thank goodness!” Gillian had exclaimed. Even though Sue had planned other ways for people to mix and meet besides destiny, Gillian had imagined how romantic it would be to interact with a man in Regency clothing and who probably liked Austen as well. She speculated about the type of man he was. Tall, hopefully. Funny. Humble. Not living with his mother.
     Now at last, the moment of truth had arrived. Gillian tried not to be obvious as she made her way around the room, searching, but although she spotted Romeo, Superman, and Indiana Jones, she saw neither hide nor hair of Mr. Darcy. Until...
     “Pardon me,” a voice said behind her.
     Turning, she saw a man magnificently dressed in a cut-away coat, brocade waistcoat and boots. No top hat, but a nicely tied cravat that looked like it might have been a wedding veil in another life.
     “Elizabeth Bennett?”
     She curtsied and managed to stammer, “Y-yes.”
     His smile was warm and his bow, utterly romantic. “I came especially to meet you, Miss Bennett. Would you care to dance?”
     She focused for the first time on the music, a techno club song that didn’t lend itself to the gentility of their costumes. “I’d actually rather talk if you don’t mind,” she said.
     Offering his arm, he suggested they venture outside. The night air felt refreshing as they exchanged real names. She discovered that Thomas had been born and raised in Los Angeles, like she was. He managed a pub not to far from where she lived. She told him about her job as a pre-school teacher.
     “So, let me get this straight. You make a conscious choice to spend the day with small uncivilized children?”
     She laughed. “It’s my job to civilize them. Besides, you make the choice to spend the evenings with intoxicated adults...”
     “Touché,” he said with a wry, Darcy-like smile. “You’re absolutely right.”
     They spent an hour there, away from the party, discussing Jane Austen’s work, more recent fiction (they were both avid readers), and their mutual wish to visit England someday. Just as they were about to go inside, his phone rang.
     After glancing at the screen, he apologized, checked his watch, and texted a reply.
     “I’m sorry,” he said afterward. “My mom wanted to know what time I’d be getting home.”
     Oh, no! Gillian blanched and her heart sank. He did live with his mother. This was a disaster. He was such a mama’s boy he even had a curfew.
     She must have let her emotions show on her face because he frowned. “What’s wrong?” Then it dawned on him. “Oh, it’s not like that. I have my own place. Mom’s recovering from a hernia operation and since Dad passed away and I’m an only child, I’ve been helping her out since she got released from the hospital. In fact, that’s the reason I waited so long to RSVP for this dance. I wanted to make sure she was healing up all right.”
     Smiling in relief, she said, “I think it’s wonderful that you take care of your mother like that. I’m afraid I jumped to the wrong conclusion.”
     “No harm done,” Thomas said, laughing. “Say, my house may not be as grand as Darcy’s, but maybe you could come over next Friday for dinner. Mom should be fine by then and I’d like to show you that book I was talking about.”
     Gillian was happy to accept his invitation. In fact, a few months later, she accepted another of Thomas’ invitations—this time not for dinner, but for a lifetime. The next Valentine’s Day at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, she and Thomas got married, dressed in the very costumes they’d worn when they first met.


Mary Jo said...

Kate, thanks for posting your story. It's good to see something a little different written for WW. Did the rejection come from Johnene? Maybe she thinks her readers aren't familiar with Jane Austen. I wish they had taken a chance on it.

My Valentine's story is still in their shop; however, it is "different", too, so who knows.

When are you going to do a barista story? I have been waiting for that.

Kate Willoughby said...

LOL. It came from Johnene. I thought maybe what made it questionable was the fact that he worked in a bar or their whole conversation about their jobs.

Oh, I don't know about a barista story. Coffee places seem so cliche...

Mary Jo said...

Johnene could always have used her blue pencil on the bar scene and made him a used car salesman or something. If that was the reason, I'm sure she wouldn't hesitate.

When have you last seen a story about a coffee house? Ever? Well, not since Frasier, I guess. I think it is a happy meeting place to start a busy day--or a new relationship. You have the expertise to make his special coffee drink. Well, what do I know--I don't even drink coffee. I doubt if my kinda guy would hang out at a tea party, though.

Jane Smith Sibley said...

It's a very sweet story, Kate! I like how they obviously have similar interests. And yet, as with the characters, there's still room for misunderstanding.

Thank you for sharing it!

Pat said...

Kate, although its a good story, I see a lot of negativity. Too much for WW? Perhaps that's why it was rejected. I also noticed the bar and wondered if that could be a problem also.

I know my critique group marks ever negative comment for thought and we try to change them before submitting. But only one of us has sold a romance. Usually they all sell mysteries.

Not sure if this helps anyone.

Kate Willoughby said...

Mary Jo, hmm, maybe you're right. I haven't seen any coffee house stories in a while.

Thanks, Jane!

Pat, you saw a lot of negativity? I can see how their views on each other's jobs might be negative, but it was really only joking around. And the part about her being afraid he really did live with his mother was the black moment... I'm curious to know what you thought was negative. Don't be shy. I love criticism.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for posting your story. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, and love your title. Right now the house is noisy, so I think I'll save it to read later. It sounds very interesting!

I got to thinking about something yesterday, since most editors seem to loathe adverbs (in my humble opinion, I think they can sound good in certain sentences)how does WW feel about using adverbs? Since the wordcount is so short, I can't see a way around using them. Is this okay?

Also, I heard through the grapevine (hope this isn't true) that Woman's World is now paying $500.00 as opposed to $800.00. Is this true?

Thanks for your help! Love your blog!


Mary Jo said...

Adverbs, Nicole? I guess I never give a thought to the parts of speech, I just write the story.

Since you mentioned it, though, let's look at an example: She ran quickly. I think you can see that is redundant. She either ran or she didn't. In such a short piece as a WW Romance, the question you must ask yourself is, is this word necessary, adverb or whatever it might be. Well, that is how I whittle my stories down to 800 words.

The last I heard, $500 is the rate for a mystery and $800 for a romance. I hope they have not cut that almost in half. Kate, say it isn't so!

Pat said...


That might be the problem. From the rejections I've seen, WW editors do not understand joking characters who joke around. I downloaded your story. And I will highlight what I think WW thinks is negative. Just give me a couple of days as we are about to get hit by Sandy here and I am just north of Atlantic City where the center is so we will be without power for a while. (I hope not to long, but with Irene it was 36 hours.)

Anonymous said...

Just my opinion but I think this story might be too highbrow for WW readers. It's very clever--too clever? Not being a snob but I'm guessing a lot of WW readers are not Jane Austen fans too.

Kate Willoughby said...

Nicole, everything in moderation. Use adverbs judiciously and wisely. My rule of thumb is to use a strong verb whenever possible, but if the adverb is necessary, go for it. For instance, she smiled hesitantly. I can't think of a verb that would take the place of both those words together. I think that the NO ADVERBS!!! "rule" is a rumor. A good writer knows when to use them, amateur writers often don't. That's my humble opinion. :)

I have not heard anything about a pay rate change.

Really, guys, I'm over the rejection. It doesn't really matter why it was rejected in the long run. I'll just write something else. :)

Kate Willoughby said...

But it's really sweet how you are all trying to help me figure out what went wrong! :)