Play with Fire

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?

Let's take a look at 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.


From the Author

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!”


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 heads 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? No? Well, there will be some swooning going on too!


The novella is available on Amazon as an eBook, a Paperback, and on Kindle Unlimited. The audiobook, narrated by the awesome Harry Frost, should be available later this year!



You also have a chance to win the novella. Meryton Press is giving away two eBooks of Play with Fire. Two lucky readers will each get one eBook, and the giveaway is international. 

Do you want a chance to win some great swag and an eBook of Play with Fire? How about the prize package from J. Marie Croft? Look at all the goodies she has for you. The giveaway is international. Go to the Meryton Press Blog and share your thoughts in the comment section to enter.

The giveaway consists of:

1 – Love at First Slight Bookmark

1 – Pair of Pride & Prejudice socks

1 – Card, the Novels of Jane Austen, with envelope

1 – Set of Pride & Prejudice character page flags

1 – Jane Austen Notepad

1 – eBook of Play with Fire, not pictured

Remember, only comments on the Meryton Press Blog for the post, Play with Fire will be entered in the giveaway.

Both giveaways will end Thursday, October 1st, at midnight, Central Time. Good luck to everyone!


Other Books by J. Marie Croft



And Remember...

It is a truth universally acknowledged: when one finishes a great love story, one always longs for more. Count on Meryton Press, an independent publisher of Austenesque and Romance, to provide that more.