Home > The Great British Bachelor Chase

The Great British Bachelor Chase
Author: Lila Monroe







“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a love of Jane Austen novels must be in want of tall, devastatingly handsome man to ardently admire and love her. Either that, or a dashing scoundrel to sweep her off her feet—and onto her back,” I add with a smirk. “I’m not picky.”

“Yes, you are!” My best friend, Tessa, laughs down the phone line at my greeting—and my terrible attempts at an English accent. The Sussex countryside speeds by outside my windows: a lush, green vista of rolling hills, quaint villages, and winding country lanes that already makes me feel as if I’ve stepped through a portal to another world—and not just off an eight-hour flight from the East Coast.

“And why are we tempting fate even talking about scoundrels?” She continues, “You deserve nothing less than a Fitzwilliam Darcy to worship the ground you walk on.”

“You mean, fall in love with me despite all his rational objections to my lowly station in life?” I reply with a smile.

“I mean, be enchanted by your fine eyes, wit, and lively disposition,” Tessa giggles. Since I’ve forced her to sit through pretty much every adaptation known to man, she can quote along with the best of them. “Until he pledges you his heart, vast riches, and his fine grounds at Pemberley.”

“Well, as long as we’re setting some realistic expectations for my trip…” I smile, “Although, I’m not sure when I’m supposed to meet this strapping romantic hero. I’m going to be working sixteen-hour days on the movie for the next couple of months,” I remind her, eying the filming schedule packet they sent me. All twenty-two pages of it. “This isn’t a vacation. Well, it’s not supposed to be one.”

“If there’s two things I have faith in, Jolene Jameson, it’s your ability to find a hot man in any circumstance… and multitask. Speaking of, what happened to texting me as soon as you landed?” Tessa demands. “Have you gone Hollywood already and forgotten us little people?”

“If by ‘Hollywood’ you mean getting held up in baggage claim and watching nervously as a Customs agent almost found my bag of sex toys, then yes,” I reply—and then catch the eye of my stern driver in the rearview mirror. Whoops. “Not a whole bag full,” I explain quickly to Tessa—and him. “Just, you know, the essentials! I’m going to be here on set for a while. You can’t expect me to be parted from my vibrator for that long.”

“Who knows, maybe you’ll strike up a showmance with one of the hot Hollywood hunks on set?” Tessa suggests, and I shake my head immediately—even though she can’t see me.

“No way. Cast are absolutely off-limits. I’m here to do a job, remember? This is a huge career break for me, and I plan on being scrupulously professional with my coworkers,” I say virtuously. Then I pause. “But if someone who isn’t part of the movie wants to come—”

“Butter your crumpet?” Tessa suggests. “Snap your biscuit? Make your buns rise?”

I laugh. “You’ve been watching too much Bake Off. But it sounds delicious to me.”

I gaze happily out of the window. I still can’t believe this is really happening. Career paths for overeducated Austen scholars are few and far between, which is why up until a couple of weeks ago, I was living in the tiny apartment above my mom’s trinket shop on Cape Cod, selling shapeless linen dresses to women of a certain age while I struggled to finish my final PhD dissertation. But now, thanks to a series of fortunate accidents involving Tessa’s boyfriend, a hometown movie production, and my infinite persistence, I’ve landed the job of a lifetime:

Source Material Consultant (aka Head Austen Geek) for a new big-budget Hollywood adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that they’re starting production on here in England. Apparently, it’s an actual job—one the movie studio was even willing to fly me out to do! It’ll be my role to answer any and all Austen-related questions from the writer/director, and the rest of the crew during filming, making sure they don’t stumble into any literature faux pas, and inspire the wrath of millions of Austen purists. They’re even paying me for the privilege.—when clearly, I’d do this for free, any day.

“Are you excited to be back in England?” Tessa asks. I can hear voices in the background, and I can picture her in the lobby of the bed and breakfast she just opened.

“Excited, nervous… the whole gamut,” I reply. I studied abroad here in London when I was in college, but since that ended in epic heartbreak and general romantic devastation, I’ve sworn off the whole British Isles.

Until now.

“You’ll be great,” Tessa reassures me. “Reeve’s lucky to have you.”

“And also emailing new script changes every other hour,” I remark dryly. The movie’s director, Reeve Donavan, is a new friend of ours. I thought I already knew just how neurotic and highly strung he was, but after working with him all summer on early drafts of the script, I can tell that we’ve barely scratched the surface of his creative control-freakery. “You know he was calling me at three a. m. asking about Regency etiquette and who would curtsy to whom? That’s three a.m. English time,” I add.

Tessa laughs. “See, the problem is, I know you’re happy to talk for hours about all things Austen, no matter what time it is.”

I smile. She’s right. “And they said my PhD would be useless in the real world!”

“Ooh, new guests just arrived. I’ve got to go,” Tessa says hurriedly. “But stay in touch, OK? I want all the updates!”

“Twenty-four seven,” I promise. “Prepare to be sick of me!”

I say my goodbyes and hang up, relaxing back in my seat. From the luxurious business-class flight, to the uniformed driver waiting for me in Arrivals, this is already a far cry from my last time on British soil, when I was stuck hauling my oversized backpack on the bus to my rundown student housing. But the familiar landscape out here in the countryside is just as enchanting, the rare blue skies bright above brilliant green fields, broken up by red brick garden walls and moss-covered roofs as we speed through Sussex.

I feel a shiver of anticipation for the month ahead. It’s such a beautiful country. Why did I stay away so long?

Oh yeah, the part where I got my heart well and truly broken, then spent the next decade as a broke-ass student who could barely afford ramen, let alone international travel.

Well, things are different now—and I’m not just talking about the fancy mineral water in the back of the chauffeured car. Gone is my wide-eyed nineteen-year-old sentimentality, that let me get swept off my feet by the first brooding Scottish art student who glanced in my direction. I really believed that we were soulmates, destined to be together forever. Which turned out to be more like, ‘A couple of months of mind-blowing passion and soul-shaking intimacy until he ghosted me without a word, breaking my heart so completely I can’t even hear a Scottish accent now without a wince.’

The man ruined Outlander for me, that’s how thoroughly the man broke my heart.

But that’s ancient history, I remind myself, firmly setting aside the memories. Like I told Tessa, I’m not looking for another great love story this time around. I’m not sure I even believe that kind of happily-ever-after romance is possible—so it’s easier for me not to even try. No, I want a tryst, a conquest, une affaire. Something sexy and fleeting that won’t leave me utterly emotionally wrecked. Maybe I’ll meet a charming local on location, or strike up a conversation in the pub one night…

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