Excerpt: A Searing Acquaintance by J.L. Ashton

Posted March 20, 2016 by Sophia Rose in Book Tour / 14 Comments

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Excerpt: A Searing Acquaintance by J.L. Ashton

ASA cover

“I don’t know why I ever thought we made sense.”

Smart, educated people are fools in love, especially when they’re mired in denial and misunderstanding.

In this modern spin on Jane Austen’s classic tale, Elizabeth Bennet, a grad student with literary aspirations, has found her big career break—and broken up with yet another forgettable boyfriend. While grateful for the professional lifeline thrown by sports agent George Wickham, she is intrigued by the man she calls Mr. Noir.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, marked by tragedy, is a man accustomed to living his life in the spotlight even as his heart dwells on the dark side of loneliness. When he first meets Elizabeth, he thinks she looks like “a bloody pumpkin,” but he soon sees so much more. She, however, can’t even decide what to call him. Mr. Noir? Nurse Darcy? Sleazy British playboy? Ferdinand?

“So, it’s Fitzwilliam, right? That’s an amazing name, you know. Which came first—the name or the accent?”

He looked at her.

“Oh, come on. It’s like the name of a subdivision or a sofa at Pottery Barn. `Please note the extra firm cushions on The Fitzwilliam.’”

Can an accidental encounter that leads to shocking intimacy change the course they’ve both set and bring them into love’s light? Or will they stay mired in cold words and angry misunderstandings, overshadowing the deep connection they each feel? Getting beyond their own mistakes to find each other again is one thing; they also have to heal the wounds of their pasts. Can they do that together?

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[quote]Chapter 10 Excerpt…A scene at Pemberley, a month or two after Hunsford

A few minutes after the Gardiners herded their tired children upstairs to bed, Charles stood and lowered the volume on the outdoor speakers. “I really should’ve been a deejay. I make the best mixes,” he boasted, swaying along with the music for a few seconds. He took a bow and chucked another log onto the fire pit.

“Careful, Charles. Sparks are flying,” Darcy said.

Charles sat on the double chaise and pulled Jane close. “Ooh-la-la, you think I haven’t noticed?” He waggled his eyebrows at his fiancée.

“Ugh, you guys are gross,” Elizabeth grumbled. “At least try to behave in polite company. I’d hate to stumble over discarded clothing.”

“Oh, Liz, you’ve no sense of romance. You know what, Janey?” Charles asked.

“What, dear?”

“We have too many boring, single friends in New York. Did the mayor ban dating and romance along with Slurpees?”

“Certainly did. Romance, trans fats, and public smoking are all illegal in New York,” Darcy commented, a wry smile on his face.

“Thank God we still have karaoke bars.” Charles guffawed.

Elizabeth laughed and wondered whether Charles was always “on” for a group. Ava and Alex adored him, and he’d even won over Lydia and Mary. She shuddered, wondering how Sylvia would react to his good-natured, puppy dog personality.

Coco. She needed to say something to Darcy.

The very proper English voice of the man she’d just been thinking about interrupted Elizabeth’s thoughts.

“Are you cold? May I get you a sweater?”

“What? No. No, thank you.” Elizabeth looked up from the flames to see him leaning close to her.

“All right,” he said, sitting back in his chair and feeling completely ridiculous. “You shivered.”

“Did I?”

A bit of scuffling and giggling caught their attention. Charles announced it was officially hot tub hour. “You two are welcome to join us, but, um, we might not be wearing anything.”

“Charles!” Jane swatted his arm.

“No more alcohol for that one,” Elizabeth scolded before noticing her sister appeared just as blurrily happy as Charles did.

“Jane, please make sure the poor boy puts on a floatie or some water wings,” Darcy said dryly. “He doesn’t look terribly sentient to me.”

The blissful couple stumbled off, leaving behind the uncomfortable pair watching their retreating backs.

“They’re disgustingly happy,” Elizabeth groused, smiling. She picked up her wine glass and sighed.

“They’re perfect for each other. It was clear from the very first minute they met.”

Love and romance were not the best topics for the two of them to explore, Elizabeth thought. She closed her eyes, screwed up her courage, and turned toward Darcy.

“Fitzwilliam, I’m so sorry about Coco. I hadn’t realized…I mean, I don’t know the whole story, but you were so sweet with her, and I know she was important to you.”

Darcy looked up from the fire and met her gaze. “She was. Thank you. Your note, the one you sent, was very thoughtful. And much appreciated.” His voice drifted off. He bit his lip and glanced off toward the beach.

Elizabeth took a last sip of wine and stared at him. The note I sent in reply to your letter. I wonder if there’s any humble pie in that kitchen. How do I tell him how little I remember about that night? She grimaced. “It was the very least I could do. The thing is,” Elizabeth acknowledged quietly, “I don’t really remember what—”

She made the mistake of glancing at him. His attention was fixed on her. The flickering firelight softened his expression, deepening the planes of his cheekbones and brightening his eyes. Elizabeth lost her train of thought. His mother could have been a model. I wonder if he looks like her.

“What?” he said, wondering why she seemed so lost, so distracted. “You don’t remember what?”

Elizabeth blushed, embarrassed. “Um, calculus?” she said offhandedly. “My sister’s birthday, what I need at the grocery store…” What we talked about that night at Netherfield. That night. “I’ve had too much wine, I guess.”

Darcy watched as various emotions swept over her face. She doesn’t remember Netherfield. Or she remembers it wrongly. I think. “Memory is a tricky thing,” he said carefully. “We repress some memories, change others.”

Silently he pleaded for her to look at him.

She looked up and smiled a bit. “Yes. The painful ones.”

Netherfield is painful for her? He swallowed and looked away as the first notes of “Still Crazy After All These Years” floated in.

“Oh, I love this song,” she said. “Sylvia—my mother—used to sing it all the time.”

“Mine too.”

“Really? Oh, Charles made this mix from her music, right?”

He looked past her and smiled wistfully. “Yes. She loved folksingers. All the singer-songwriters in the sixties and seventies. She loved the vulnerability of their voices, the imperfection of their singing. No studio fakery, no disguise of any sort. You know the stanza, in the middle, how Paul Simon’s voice strains?”

“Oh my God,” Elizabeth said, grinning with delight. “The sweet spot.”

“Yes,” he said eagerly, nodding. “I’ll listen to the whole song just for that moment.”

They sat quietly for a minute, listening. Waiting. He held up a finger and they both unconsciously leaned forward a little as the song neared that note.[/quote]


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A Searing Acquaintance Blog Tour Schedule

3/7: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club

3/8: Guest Post & Giveaway at So Little Time…

3/9: Review at Tomorrow is Another Day

3/10: Author Interview & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton

3/11: Character Interview & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged

3/12: Excerpt & Giveaway at Babblings of A Bookworm

3/13: Review at Liz’s Reading Life

3/14: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope

3/15: Review at Margie’s Must Reads

3/16: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars

3/17: Guest Post at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice

3/18: Review at Diary of an Eccentric

3/19: Review at Just Jane 1813

3/20: Excerpt & Giveaway at Delighted Reader

3/21: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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Braine TS
6 years ago

“Romance, trans fats, and public smoking are all illegal in New York,” I love this!

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Braine TS

There are some funny lines in this one.

6 years ago

I didn’t get a chance to read this when it was posted online. I’m really looking forward to reading the book 🙂

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

It looks like it will be a good one. I’ve got it on my list, too.

6 years ago

Aww, poor Darcy! I like the reference to ‘disguise of any sort’ here, a nice little nugget for Austen fans to notice 🙂

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Ceri

I’ve seen a couple excerpts and read the guest posts so I look forward to catching all those nuggets especially the way they are not necessarily in the usual order.

6 years ago

I really liked this one, above all the scenes around the pool at Pemberley! You must read it Sophia! 🙂

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  LorenDushku

Oh, I’m planning on it, Loren. I’ve enjoyed all the excerpts and guest posts so I definitely want to read it. Scenes by the pool…sounds great. 🙂

6 years ago

love the excerpt

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  dholcomb1

It sounds like a fun modern rendition, Denise.

Anna@herding cats&burning soup

Oh that looks like one I’m gonna need to check out 😀

Sophia Rose
6 years ago

It has me intrigued, too.

Dung Vu
Dung Vu
6 years ago

Great excerpt!

Sophia Rose
6 years ago
Reply to  Dung Vu

Isn’t it though, Dung? 🙂