Play with Fire

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Play with Fire, J. Marie Croft’s novella is now available on Amazon. It is the third in the Meryton Press “Skirmish & Scandal” Series of novellas and is told from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s point of view. J. Marie Croft’s play on words throughout this story is utterly delightful. This author has a unique talent, and you will not want to miss a thing! Read carefully and with pleasure! 🙂

Have I whetted your appetite? Would you like to read a little more about the story?

Here’s the back cover copy.

Play with Fire Back Cover Copy

Madness! It was nothing but madness from beginning to end, and Darcy was caught up in it.

What do occupants of Netherfield Park do on a dreary Saturday, while the Bennet sisters are still in residence, and when they have nothing at all to do? They take a page from Mansfield Park, of course, and decide on a theatrical.

In the process of planning and performing the play, certain participants get more than a little carried away, especially Fitzwilliam Darcy where Elizabeth Bennet is concerned. There might even be a kiss…and a skirmish…leading to a duel.

No one involved in the play had set out with the intention of creating a scandal. None performing in the theatrical began with the aim of ending with blushing faces, or bruised bodies, or blemishes on their reputations.

Blame it on The Mésalliance.

J. Marie Croft, are you going to enchant us with a skirmish and a scandal? Of course, you are! Now, please tell us a little about the writing of your novella.

During the early days of the current pandemic—when my province’s Premier told us to (and I quote) “Stay the blazes home!”—I had hoped to read and write to my heart’s content. Sadly, I couldn’t stay focused long enough to read more than a few pages of a book in one sitting let alone write the novel that has simmered for years on my back burner. Then, on July 1, an email arrived from Janet Taylor regarding the Meryton Press “Skirmish & Scandal” series of novellas. Yay! There was the incentive needed to kick-start my imagination.

Because I took that delightful prompt—skirmish and scandal—quite literally, Play with Fire has a bit of a duel and… Well, you’ll have to read the novella to discover the cause of further outrageous behaviour by its cast of characters.

Although the story takes place during Pride and Prejudice‘s timeline, I had to do a bit of research into such non-Regency era subjects as a justaucorps, a robe volante, a duel with small-swords, etc. But Play with Fire is not historical fiction. It’s a silly rom-com and not at all to be taken seriously. For one thing, Mr. Darcy would never act the way he does in this novella. Or would he?

My last published book was A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (2016) and before that Love at First Slight (2013)—both for Meryton Press. Today I’m excited about the release of Play with Fire but also more than a little nervous about the novella’s reception. There’s a saying that there’s safety in numbers. In the past five years, I’ve written six short stories for various anthologies. Being a part of those groups of talented and supportive writers made me less anxious about release days. Today, I hope you’ll enjoy the following excerpt and will want to read the entire novella.

Part I – Setting the Stage

No one involved had set out with the intention of creating a scandal. None of us began with the aim of ending with reddened faces, bruised bodies, or blemished reputations.

The rain, I suppose, was to blame. Ennui at Netherfield that Saturday reached a more dire level than that of a dull Sunday at my London home when I had nothing at all to do.

None of this would have happened, though, had I remained steady to my purpose, which was to speak scarcely ten words to anyone throughout the whole of that dismal day. In particular, I cautiously intended to avoid talking to her at all for fear I might blurt something utterly rash, something unable to be retracted. My participation in the tomfoolery would have been unheard of had she not shown such enthusiasm, such fervour for the scheme.

Elizabeth Bennet, not the rain, was to blame.

That is unjust. Culpability for the inanity must be assigned more rightfully to the one, true culprit—Bingley, the dunderhead, and his ‘marvellous’ discovery and Machiavellian trickery. What on earth possessed him, other than an uncustomary restlessness, to rummage about in the manor’s dusty attics that morning?

With Babs—one of his two terriers—trotting at his heels, Bingley had burst into the library where I sat ignoring the fascinating rosebud across from me in all her spellbinding splendour. Like lush spring, the nymph was clad in a provocative yet simple gown of delicate yellow trimmed with an apple-green ribbon. Not that I was paying any attention to her or that distracting frock, mind you. I was, after all, first and foremost a gentleman. Totally immune was I to her body’s every shift, every sigh, every— Criminy! I was—and still am, apparently—unable to concentrate on the matter at hand in Elizabeth’s wondrous presence.

The course of events would have played out quite differently if only Bingley had not ventured into uncharted territory, or I had been resilient and resisted her charms, or my friend had left the accursed thing up in the garret where it belonged.

“Darcy! You will never believe the marvel I found in the— Oh! Begging your pardon, Miss Elizabeth, I did not notice you there.” Bingley gave us an odd look, as if our being alone together in the library might indicate some sort of aberration or deviation on our part. “As I was saying, you will never believe what I found in Netherfield’s sky-parlour!”

“That you, perhaps, truly do have attics to let?”

“Hah! No, old man. My knowledge box is hardly unhinged.” Eyes huge, face smudged, and hair mussed, Bingley resembled an owl in an ivy bush, and I wondered what he had been doing up there under the eaves. “Come along to the sitting room, both of you, where you may praise me for finding a remedy for this lassitude that has all of you in its god-awful grip. Come—make haste! My sisters, no doubt, are ransacking my treasure as we speak.”

Elizabeth had already risen and headed for the door. Bingley, bouncing on the balls of his feet, beckoned me to follow her…as if I would not willingly follow the siren to the ends of the earth…which, at least at that point, I certainly would not do. Unbefitting was she for a gentleman of my station.

So, like innocent little lambs or sheep to the slaughter, we followed my muttonhead of a friend down the passage to the sitting room where we found Miss Bingley and the Hursts not rifling through their brother’s objet trouvé but watching in a desultory fashion while an equally apathetic maid swiped at it with the rag Babs kept trying to grab. A footman was summoned and the terrier evicted.

Bingley, still fairly vibrating with excitement, waved away the maid and strutted around the object in what might be described as a prance. Those ridiculous, high, springy steps were put to an immediate end when I quietly edged up to the likeable clodpole and, with a hiss of helpful disapproval, warned him to stop making a cake of himself.

You might wonder why all this to-do, all this commotion and fuss, was made over—as it turned out—an innocuous, dusty, old trunk. Even its moth-eaten contents were, after Bingley’s exuberance and after the lid was opened, a bit of a let-down to most of us. He, however, remained wildly enthusiastic about the possibilities therein. Down on his knees, he muttered to himself while gleefully digging through the musty articles—rather like I imagine his youngest sister might do in her dressing room, looking for a gown, when invited to the same ball I was to attend. Not that I ever spent any amount of time imagining what Miss Bingley might do in her chambers. Ugh.

Flinging articles of clothing left and right out of the trunk, Bingley cried, “What a discovery! Look here!—women’s old-fashioned gowns and, ahem, undergarments. Men’s frilled shirts, knee-length coats, long waistcoats, knee breeches. Coats and cloaks. Hose, lace caps, cocked hat, and—Aha!—a white wig, and… Oh. Old books. Why are they mixed in with heirloom clothing?” Picking up several and riffling through leather-bound, yellowed pages, releasing clouds of dust and miasmas of mildew, he cried, “Ah! A serendipitous find, after all.” Putting aside the stack of books, he rummaged about again, sneezing before standing and shaking out an article of blue velvet. Draping the cloak around himself and slinging it artfully back over one shoulder, he struck a pose. “We are, then, all set!”

So, what do you think? Did you have a chuckle or two? Just wait! This is only the beginning! I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this novella. My fur babies (dogs) were sleeping beside me while I read, or rather they were trying to sleep. Every time I laughed, they would raise their head and look at me like I had lost my mind. A blogger, who is reviewing the book, told me a similar story about her belly laughs while reading, and her cats thought she had lost her mind…  Did I say there was romance too? No? Well, there will be some swooning going on too!

Do you want a chance to win Play with Fire? How about the prize package from J. Marie Croft? Look at all the goodies that she has for you. The giveaway is international.

One Love at First Slight Bookmark; One pair of Pride & Prejudice socks; One card, the Novels of Jane Austen novels with envelope; One set of Pride & Prejudice character page flags; One Jane Austen Notepad; One eBook of Play with Fire, not pictured.

Meryton Press is giving away two eBooks of Play with Fire. The giveaway is international as well. Both giveaways will end at midnight, central time, on the 1st of October.

Available on Amazon as an eBook,
a Paperback, and Kindle Unlimited. The audiobook,
narrated by the awesome Harry Frost,
should be available later this year!
Other books by J. Marie Croft

67 Responses

  1. Kelly Miiler
    | Reply

    I loved the excerpt, and the premise sounds like great fun! Congratulations, J. Marie, I wish you all the best with your new release!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kelly! I’m glad you liked the excerpt and the premise. By the way, I loved Accusing Mr. Darcy!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Wasn’t it a cute excerpt and just enough to make you want to read more! You are right, this story is great fun! I hope you get to read it soon, Kelly.

  2. Glynis
    | Reply

    Oh! I do love to laugh! So I’m really looking forward to reading this story!
    I do wonder what play they decide to perform? I’m hoping the aforementioned kiss is between Darcy and Elizabeth? Although I also do wonder How Miss Bingley didn’t grab whatever that role was for herself?
    I can just picture Bingley’s excitement, and Darcy’s determination to avoid staring at Elizabeth (while unable to stop staring at her).
    Yes I’m definitely looking forward to reading this.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      You will love it, Glynis. There are lots of laughs and a searing kiss! I read it a second time and found even more delightful word plays than I did during the first read. I’m anxious to hear what you think of it when you get a chance to read it! Good luck in the giveaway!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, Glynis. Thanks for stopping by. I doubt you’ve heard of the play they perform. It’s called The Mésalliance. Ah, yes, the kiss. If it’s between Darcy and another character, you’d think Caroline Bingley would want to be that character, wouldn’t you? All I’ll say right now is that all will be answered in Play with Fire.

  3. Lois
    | Reply

    Sounds like fun!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Lois. It is a fun story.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, Lois. I hope Play with Fire will be as much fun to read as it was to write.

    • Lynn Bischoff
      | Reply

      I look forward to reading this. It sounds like just what I am looking for right now. Thank you.

      • Meryton Press
        | Reply

        Lynn, it was just what I needed too! I loved it. Hope you do as well. Good luck

      • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
        | Reply

        Thanks for commenting, Lynn. I hope my silly story will be what you’re looking for. If it make you smile, laugh aloud, or groan at a pun, my work will be done. Good luck in the giveaway.

  4. Mary Preston
    | Reply

    Romance and a laugh – nothing better. This all sounds wonderful.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      I agree, Mary! You can tell I think it is wonderful! 🙂

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Mary. I like to think of Play with Fire as a ‘Regency Rom-Com.’ Good luck in the giveaway!

  5. Patty Edmisson
    | Reply

    What an enjoyable selection! Always love when Darcy is in a pickle and forced to act against himself.

    Looking forward to reading this book. Congratulations on its release.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Hi Patty. We’re glad to hear you found it enjoyable! Oh, Darcy does get himself in a pickle! You should love this one. We hope you get to read it soon. Good luck in the giveaway!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks, Patty! Ha ha! Forced to ACT against himself… Yes!

  6. Grace Gibson
    | Reply

    Sounds delightful! Cannot wait to read it. Congratulations!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Grace! You will enjoy J. Marie’s wit. 🙂

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, Grace, and thank you! I hope you like puns. Darcy doesn’t!

  7. Joan
    | Reply

    Sounds like a charming book, and I am ready for some laughs 😄

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      We can all use some laughs, can’t we Joan!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hello, Joan, and thanks for your kind comment. Laughter–the best medicine, as they say–apparently increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease. Everyone, it seems, could benefit from laughter this year.

  8. Harry Frost
    | Reply

    Congratulations! I’m so excited to be recording this starting around November, I read it through once in about four hours straight, chuckling softly as I went. I’m very much in awe of the way you subtly change your prose style from Georgian comedy-of-manners to Restoration farce; in both cases it’s perfectly observed, and so rich, it’s wonderful. The play segments reminded me of a very happy time acting in Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ at school!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Hi Harry. Thanks for dropping by. We are excited that you agreed to narrate Play with Fire. We can hardly wait for you to begin. J. Marie Croft is one talented author! Glad to hear her play reminded you of a happy time acting at school. That’s neat!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Aw, Harry, thank you, kind sir! Your compliments mean a lot, and I’m positively THRILLED you’ll be giving voice once again to Mr. Darcy. Let me tell you, when Janet confirmed your agreement, there was a bit of a happy–nay, giddy!–dance going on here. I can’t wait to hear your narration!

  9. Suzan Lauder
    | Reply

    In first person and Darcy’s POV. That makes it even more interesting than that it’s from J. Marie, who is known for her humour. This will be a special Skirmish and Scandal book, that’s for certain. That taste in excerpt certainly has me wanting to read more. Best of luck with the release!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Suzan. You will love reading Darcy’s thoughts in this novella! It is indeed a special Skirmish and Scandal book to go with the first two special novellas! 🙂

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thank you, Suzan, for not only your kind comment but for being SO supportive of other Meryton Press authors. Your Schemes of Felicity and Don Jacobson’s Longbourn Quarantine were hard acts to follow!

  10. Don Jacobson
    | Reply

    Woke up this morning to this wonderful news! Congrats on the novella release! The excerpt was utterly delicious (no…I have had breakfast, so t’was the words not the need for toast that inspired that adjective). Look forward to seeing you around the blogosphere.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Ha ha! Thanks, Don. Like I said to Suzan, the first two novellas in the Skirmish & Scandal series were hard acts to follow!

      • Don Jacobson
        | Reply

        JMC…all the way…in your corner!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      That is great to hear, Don! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, delicious and all! 🙂

  11. Jan Hahn
    | Reply

    Well, criminy! (Thanks J. Marie, love that old word but haven’t heard it in years.) This book is just what the doctor ordered. A dose of laughter is what I need, and seeing Darcy in a dusty, grey wig is enough to get me started. Loved the excerpt and am so eager to read more, more, more!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, Jan. You’ve been so kind, supportive, and encouraging from the start, and I thank you!
      Darcy isn’t exactly fond of that wig, and he doesn’t like puns. Criminy! What an old stick-in-the-mud he is.
      Now, when can we expect your next book, hmm?

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Don’t you just love that word, criminy! I surely do! It always made me laugh! You are going to love this! Thanks for stopping by.

      • Meryton Press
        | Reply

        Hi Kate! We’re happy you stopped by. It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the previous novellas, and I know you will love this one too. Lots of fun will be had by all 🙂

  12. Sheila L. Majczan
    | Reply

    Congratulations on the new release. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Good luck in the giveaway, Sheila!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks, Shelia! I look forward to, hopefully, reading your review of Play with Fire.

  13. Joy King
    | Reply

    When I heard you were writing this I was SO EXCITED! I am downloading my copy now. You are hands-down one of my favorite authors. Yay! I am off to read. Congratulations on the 🚀 launch.

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      We’re so glad to have you stop by, Joy! I know you will love this novella! Thanks for letting us know you are off to read! 🙂

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Wow, Joy, thank you for such a heartwarming comment! I hope the novella lives up to your expectations.

  14. KateB
    | Reply

    Sounds delicious, I enjoyed the previous novellas and I’m looking forward to reading this one as well. I love your sense of humor and it looks like there will be a lot of fun. Congratulations ❤️

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kate! Wasn’t it a great idea for Meryton Press to publish a series of Skirmish & Scandal novellas? I’m glad you appreciate my silly sense of humour. Not everyone does. Darcy certainly doesn’t! Good luck in the giveaway.

  15. MIchelle David
    | Reply

    Oooh that sounds like it will be absolutely marvelous! Can’t wait!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Doesn’t it! Thanks for stopping by and good luck.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, Michelle. Thanks for dropping by and leaving an absolutely marvellous comment!

  16. Jen D
    | Reply

    This is going to be great fun, I have a feeling. Certainly it will be more enjoyable and lighter than that disaster of an aborted theatrical that was in Mansfield Park. As usual Darcy takes some of the blame in this matter. Thank you for this contest opportunity as well as sharing a bit about what should prove to be a intriguing novella!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      We think you will find it to be great fun, indeed! Yes, Darcy just may need to take “some” of the blame! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Jen. It’s interesting that you should mention Darcy taking some of the blame, but I shall say no more on that. Good luck in the giveaway!

  17. Ruth
    | Reply

    Fabulous premise and can’t wait to read. So happy for you, and the cover is lovely!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Ruth! We’re happy to hear your thoughts! Good luck in the fabulous giveaway!

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Aw, Ruth, thanks for your kind comment! I agree that the novella’s cover is lovely, thanks to Janet Taylor. Good luck in the giveaway!

  18. Leeza
    | Reply

    I’ve lived your other books. This one sounds a delight. Keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks for the chance.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks for your kind comment, Leeza, and good luck!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      It is delightful, Leeza. Good luck in the giveaway!

  19. Eva Edmonds
    | Reply

    This sounds like such fun! The cover is lovely. I wonder if Elizabeth and Darcy will have an intimate scene or will Caroline Bingley try to push her way in? Thank you for the excerpt and we all need some fun of theatricals right now.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Hi, again, Eva! Thanks for stopping by. Hmm… Darcy & Elizabeth… an intimate moment … with Caroline trying to push her way in. Why didn’t I think of that…or did I?
      Good luck!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      It is such fun, Eva! I’m so glad you like the cover! I like your question! Thanks for dropping by.

  20. Dung
    | Reply

    What a hoot already. I can just imagine the scene. Can’t wait to read it and congrats on this release!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      I could picture the scene as well, Dung. It is written so well that we can see it vividly played out in our minds. The novella is a hoot. I hope you get to read it soon! Thanks for stopping by.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Thanks, Dung! I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Hopefully the rest of the story will live up to your expectations.

  21. Taswmom
    | Reply

    This book sounds absolutely wonderful! I love it when Darcy can be shaken out of himself at opportune times!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Isn’t it great when he is! This is such a fun novella. We’re glad you took time to visit and comment.

    • J. Marie Croft (Joanne)
      | Reply

      Aw, thanks, Taswmom. Hah! Darcy not only gets shaken but stirred in this story. I’d love to know your thoughts if and when you read it.

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