I am back this time, with Leigh Dreyer as my guest, she has been good enough to allow me to introduce, “The Best Laid Flight Plans” which is Leigh’s modern Pride and Prejudice Book to you guys! Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. Leigh is born and raised in the Air Force Community, just as Elizabeth Bennet in “The Best Laid Flight Plans” with her Air Force husband, and two adorable children. Leigh is inspired by her own life, in Del Rio in Texas and had an almost magical experience transforming Del Rio into Longbourn City in her new book.
If you like flying above the clouds, seeing the world underneath you then this book is the book for you!
In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?
Now I will let you all read what charmed me utterly when I started reading this lovely, and quite interesting turn of Pride and Prejudice into the Air Force Community and how our beloved couple ends up together, or will they? I give you chapter 1 of “The Best Laid Flight Plans”
Excerpt of Chapter One
The clouds burst below, and wispy peaks spiraled out as the plane surged through the sky. Captain William Darcy gazed at the horizon, crimson ribbons blazing across the sunrise. These peaceful moments were the only time he participated in anything resembling prayer. He checked his altitude and trimmed up.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”
Darcy recited these lines from “High Flight” to himself as he scanned his surroundings and instruments again, his situational awareness high.
This mission was bittersweet. His last in the F-22. He would miss the deep alien whistle from the engines as it flew over the base, close enough to wave at families walking near the harbor. This sortie was an easy ride, nothing but practice and war games, but he took it seriously. He knew a few meters off perfection meant life and death. A slight left bank and the deep green mountains were to the east as he approached the runway for a quick touch and go.
Those jade Hawaiian mountains rising from the blackness of the earth were what he loved most about this base. Oddly, they were quite alien to his upbringing in Central New York. The woods surrounding Pemberley were green but never quite this other-worldly, tropical color. Somehow Pemberley’s hills and forests were more real, and he missed seeing the horizon curve over the gentle hills of his land. Here, that prospect was only available in the sky and he ached for it. He loved that feeling of being alone in the world and watching it go on forever.
Pushing forward on the stick, he felt the quick descent in a tactical approach before touching the runway for a split second—up on the thrust and away again, off to his place in the clouds and his head. He ran through the memorized checklist he needed to complete on this ride… Touch and goes: check. Ship car: incomplete. Go to the TMO office: incomplete. Schedule movers: incomplete. He blinked, staring unseeingly at his controls. Damn moving checklist! He halted the intruding checklist and reoriented to the task. Tactical approach: check. One more turn and then in for the landing.
He could not allow himself to think about moving again as he had spent enough energy on it already. He would have a quick Pilot Instructor Training in San Antonio and then the three-hour drive to the Mexican border to Longbourn City and Meryton Air Force Base to train America’s best and brightest student pilots. He loved flying more than anything in the world but wondered if that love extended to the staleness of helping brand new pilots grasp the basics of the T-38 Talon.
Darcy hated moving; it was the worst aspect of the Air Force. Having grown up at Pemberley, near the Finger Lakes, Darcy always knew his place in that perfect, idyllic world. He did not understand how anyone would ever want to leave where they had grown up. Pemberley was the place his soul lived. He looked again at the green around him as he flew, but it was not the right shade—nothing like the bright emerald leaves at home. Pemberley had the best views the world had to offer: brilliant green trees in the summer, vibrant fall colours in autumn, winters full of snow and sledding, and fields of wildflowers to rival any florist shop in spring. There were lakes for swimming, canoeing, or fishing. There were large rocks and mountains to hike. Darcy had never known a bored moment in his childhood.
His father had taught him to fly at twelve, first in a small Cessna and then later in the Bonanza. Together with his father, Darcy had grown up looking down on the prospect of his family’s holdings and missed them every time he was in the air. Flying was the only thing that kept him connected to his father and, thus far, the only reason he continued to tolerate moving by the whim of the Air Force.
Meanwhile, Meryton, Texas was stuck in the middle of a desert. When he looked up information about the base, the pictures only showed brown dirt, brown grass, brown sage bushes, and brown mesquite trees. The only positive was that there were ranches nearby. Bingley had even talked about leasing a little working farm and maybe living together when he arrived. Perhaps this move would be fun if he could put himself back in wide, open spaces where he belonged. He might even mentor Bingley in the business of agriculture along the way. William Darcy and Charles Bingley had become best friends at Cornell despite Bingley being a couple years junior. Both had been business majors and in the challenging program, Darcy’s reticence had balanced Bingley’s natural exuberance; it was a relationship that worked well for them both and followed into their military careers.
Darcy shook his head brusquely. He could feel his precision lagging as he pulled back from his daydreaming. Bank left, roll right. He held the stick just a little tighter and felt the metal, hot and slippery in his hand. It was hot. The cockpit was always hot, regardless of the external temperature, and as he pulled his damp flight suit away from his sticky chest, he smelled the musk of his sweat. It would be even hotter at Meryton. Hotter than Pemberley, to be sure. Possibly hotter than Hell itself, if his friends were to be believed.
On the upside, at Meryton, he would be able to go home to Pemberley occasionally as Meryton was near an airport and the ops tempo was significantly lower. As an instructor, he would be able to enjoy holidays, a luxury he had not experienced in the last four years; he might even be able to get other leave approved for once. Hawaii was too far to go home often and when he did go, he just depressed himself. Georgiana deserved more than a brother who moped around the house, seeing ghosts around every bend and hearing voices that could no longer be heard. Besides, he missed Mrs. Reynolds’ meals. He added “Enjoy a glass of Pemberley cabernet franc” to his moving checklist.
“Tower, this is Fitz 27. Request five-mile initial for the overhead.”
“Fitz 27, this is Tower…” Darcy listened and noted the vectors to begin his landing. After breaking, he threw down his landing gear and banked right, watching his speedometer and began to slow to two hundred and fifty knots after breaking over the numbers.
“Fitz 27 in the Break,” Darcy spoke clearly into the mic, adjusting the mask slightly closer to his lips in an effort to maintain clarity for the air traffic controllers watching the field.
“Fitz 27 Clear to Land,” the tower replied through the scratchy radio.
“Roger. Clear to Land.”
Darcy snapped the aircraft right again and applied the slightest of back pressures to the stick continuing his turn through the perch. He crossed the runway at fifty feet and grimaced as he felt the thud of a harder than usual landing. He pushed on the brakes and began his taxi to park. The runway was smooth, and he felt the long muscles of his legs flex as he steered toward the hangar.
Per tradition, with his last flight in the F-22, his squadron would be waiting for him with ice water and champagne ready to dump it over him in celebration before his move. He was not ready for the fini-flight celebration and began to recite another checklist to calm his rising anxieties. Smile during taxi to park. He promptly raised the corners of his mouth into what he hoped was a look of glee. Check. Take everything important out of flight suit pockets: check. Done before even leaving for the flight.
The plane slowed and stopped smoothly while the air traffic marshaller crossed his arms in front of him signalling the stop. Next, to the controller, a tall teenage girl echoed his movements, blonde hair blowing in the morning breeze. Darcy’s plastered smile grew as his lips turned into a real grin when he recognized his sister, Georgiana. As she crossed her arms in front of her chest, he put the brake on and stopped the plane’s rolling.
His flight stood with pressurized water hoses, coolers, and champagne bottles at the ready. He threw off his belts, helmet, and mask and opened the cockpit. As he stepped onto the ladder, the deluge started. The other pilots laughed and hooted in celebration. He closed his eyes to the onslaught of water and champagne and blindly stumbled down the ladder to the runway.
Shouts assaulted his ears while the pressured veins of water stung his skin beneath his flight suit.
“Darcy, you call that a landing?”
“Don’t spray the cockpit!”
“William!” His teenager sister’s voice rose out amongst the tumult.
Darcy ran toward Georgiana and as Darcy reached her, he felt the cool, sticky flood of champagne down the neck of his flight suit. Her thin frame was crushed and soaked by his hug. The cascade continued, sending chills down his spine and down into his leg and boots. The sweet smell of the alcohol mixed with his sweat and Georgiana’s perfume. He released her and turned to his cousin and was grasped in a bear hug.
“Richard!” Darcy’s shout was muffled over the water spray and ear-piercing shouts.
The two men laughed, Darcy, patting the back of his shorter cousin. The hug was interrupted by Georgiana jumping on his back as he grabbed her legs and spun her around. Onlookers clapped and cheered at the small family’s overt affection.
“You have a real career in air marshalling, G,” Darcy said while lowering Georgiana to the ground.
Richard performed large sweeping hand motions in a teasing echo. “All those dance classes really paid off. Glad to see Will’s money wasn’t spent in vain.”
Georgiana blushed. “I can follow directions. It’s not that hard. Besides, I’ve never been allowed to do it before, so I was just excited they would let me even try.”
Darcy shook hands with his flight mates amidst the revelry.
“Good luck, Fitz.”
“Better you than me, old man.”
“If you see Hammock there in Meryton, tell him ‘hi’ for me, would you? He’s great to get a drink with. I think he’s in the 15th so you’ll have to keep an eye out for him.”
“Next time we gas up at Randolph over a weekend, I’ll give you a call!”
A helpful lieutenant took a group photo of the soaked but smiling faces, and Darcy escorted Richard and Georgiana back across the privileged-access runways. The rest of the squadron drove golf-carts and maintenance trucks and travelled quickly back to the unremarkable brick squadron building.
“Rich, I had no idea you would be here! How on earth did you swing it?” Darcy looked at Lieutenant Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam with a gleam in his eye. He noted Richard’s short auburn hair stuck up in a variety of interesting directions from the sticky champagne and cold spray.
“I had a little use or lose leave left, stopped by Mom and Dad’s, grabbed Georgie, and flew here. It was a near thing. We almost missed our connection in LA.”
Timid and mouse-like, but exuberant, Georgiana said, “Will, you should have seen us! We were running all through the terminals. I thought for sure we would pass out before the second one. We were wicked fast. I love to fly, but if I never go through LAX again, it will be too soon.”
“Richard, you know I hate that nickname.” Darcy grimaced and rolled his eyes toward the heavens. Georgiana giggled as she looked between the two.
“Fitzwilliam is a perfectly fine nickname. Besides, Mom loves it.”
“She loves it because… She thinks it’s cute.” Darcy sighed.
“It is pretty cute.” Richard pinched Darcy’s cheeks as Darcy pulled away, smacking his hands, despite also carrying flight bags and his helmet.
Georgiana jumped in. “You are pretty cute, Fitz…” She burst into a fit of squeaking giggles.
Richard’s grin grew wider before sighing. “Anyway, Mom and Dad say ‘hello’ and I’m supposed to tell you that they think you should hurry up and get married so they have the hope of seeing a new generation of Fitzwilliam children before they die. I do believe they have finally given up on me.”
Richard was good-looking enough, if not handsome: dark auburn hair, green eyes with an ever-present hint of mischief, and a stocky build. He never seemed to lack a date but never seemed to want to settle down either. With his elder brother Preston’s marriage to a woman who does not want to have children, Richard was Aunt and Uncle Fitzwilliam’s only chance at grandchildren.
Inwardly, Darcy frowned despite his outward smiles. He would love to find someone to share his life with. He had been lost after his parents died, and a lasting love while in the military was difficult. Besides, Darcy could not fathom even introducing any of the women he had met to his younger sister. “Well, I’ll work on that”—tossing a flight bag at Richard’s head— “and maybe I’ll just mail-order one. Do they still do that sort of thing?”
“Are you excited about your new station?” Richard asked.
“Meryton? It’s not my number one pick, but I suppose it will be okay. I’ll be on the mainland, but I’m not looking forward to teaching know-it-alls who have never even been near a big boy plane, let alone in one.” Darcy clenched the straps on his bag as he picked it back up and swiped his security tag against the panel that opened the large, grey metal door.
“You mean know-it-all brats, like you?” Richard winked quickly at Georgiana and rushed down the stark hallway before Darcy could respond.
Wasn’t that just lovely? Seeing the sky and feel the freedom through Darcy’s eyes?! I fell in love even more with flying than I already am! I was strongly reminded of “Top Gun” while reading the book and couldn’t help but feel a little bad for Darcy when he falls for Elizabeth, and how she acted towards him! Poor guy, even if he was somewhat an arse because he’s shy and not comfortable in large gatherings.
Flying high above the world, feeling the freedom and yet the control about flying must be one of the greatest feelings in the world. Leigh has written with both feeling and experience about flying above the skies, in her lovely book of “The best laid flight plans” where we are treated to a first-row sight of Darcy as an instructor at Longbourn AirBase in Texas, and Elizabeth as a student, earning her wings.
The opening chapter was without a doubt my ultimate favourite with the description of flying, and how Darcy felt in his own machine high above the ground, and yet still he is recognizable to Austen fans and readers, as the brooding man Austen first introduced us to, and the man we have come to know and love through BBC and movie versions of “Pride and Prejudice”.
It was extremely great to see how Darcy and Elizabeth would evolve within the Avionic World, and yet how their feelings still get them in trouble with each other and their hearts.
Leigh also managed to make her book very believable and made the reader feel drawn into the story and the location of Meryton Airbase and village around it. The characters of Bingley, Jane, Elizabeth and Darcy are without a doubt the strongest characters throughout Leigh’s book, though Anne did leave a somewhat positive experience, and Jane and Bingley were a pleasure to read, they are just a cute and adorable couple, and Leigh had their romance written in such a way that left the reader sighing happily.
I was beyond ecstatic when Pemberley appeared in the book as well! I was so pleased to see Mrs. Reynolds, and Georgiana – and even Darcy appear at his home where he finally shows his affections for Elizabeth so clearly that she cannot be in any doubt of his feelings. It was lovely! I was only sad to see the scene end so quickly.
I can admit to feeling EXTREMELY happy, for a feat Leigh got through in her book, which not many other authors of this genre have done, but I can also admit to feeling a little ashamed of just how happy it made me as a loss of a human life is sad. But never fear, its not one of the good guys.
While reading the book, it made me think back to “Top Gun” and “An Officer and a Gentleman” it gave some internal images of both Richard Gere and Tom Cruise as their respective roles, both who wants to fly jets, and I could easily see Elizabeth take up the role of commander in a flight alongside Darcy, or in their own respective jets and soar across the sky into the sunset together.
And finally, though the ending had me moaning the words, “Open-ended damn!” But then thought quickly after that, “Of course there must be a second book coming” and personally, I can’t wait to see what Leigh comes up with next.
You can all contact Leigh via these Contact Information;
Author Name: Leigh Dreyer
Facebook: Leigh Dreyer
Facebook Page: @leighdreyerauthor
Social Media Information
Well, guys that were it for this time! I hope you enjoyed it and are in the mood to go and get your hands on this modern P&P book! It’s worth it! Thank you all for reading this blog, I look forward to your comments and to see you soon again for my next blog entry.