Release date: August 1, 2016
It is a truth universally acknowledged … that Jane Austen set the bar for romantic male leads way back in 1813. What mortal man could live up to the gruff yet golden-hearted Mr. Darcy?
Now programmer Zoe Bunsen thinks she has the cure to two centuries’ worth of female disillusionment: a new artificial intelligence program that looks, talks, and thinks like Darcy. No way will she let the chauvinistic atmosphere at her company nor her stuffy colleague, Max, get in the way of her wildest dream—creating the perfect man. Even if he isn’t quite human…
Max Taggart, project manager extraordinaire, has crossed a continent to secure this high-profile position. His frustrating teammate Zoe may not know it, but everyone’s jobs depend on not only the duo meeting the nearly impossible deadline but the new AI being a huge success. Mr. Darcy needs to sell, even if that means selling out a few literary details.
When the AI starts using its scary degree of emotional intelligence to reveal their individual secrets, Zoe and Max must rethink everything, and a surprising connection begins to develop. Will these two unlikely cohorts cling to their prejudices or toss pride aside and admit love is stronger than a fantasy?
by Ashlinn Craven
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Ashlinn Craven writes romances involving people with real ambitions, real passions, and real paychecks. While not penning feel-good love stories for fellow romantics, she’s working in the IT industry, doing the mom routine, or consuming unhealthy amounts of Austen fanfic. Connect with her via ashlinncraven.com.
An excerpt from Building Mr. Darcy:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen has been filling women with unrealistic expectations of men since 1813. Zoe Bunsen was one such woman. Twenty-eight and single, she’d never encountered a man as compelling as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. But she possessed the good fortune of being employed by a British software company, which, after decades of research, had beaten the Silicon Valley giants to the post. Zycorp Ltd. in London had created the world’s first artificially intelligent Mr. Darcy.
Zoe had the even greater fortune of being one of the two software testers selected to prepare Mr. Darcy for entry into the modern world. She spent the two weeks until project kickoff in excited agitation, rereading the book several times and dreaming up tweaks to the AI’s mannerisms and opinions in order to make him as Darcy-like as possible. She hoped that a genuine heart of gold had been encoded into his circuitry and that he wasn’t some lipstick-on-a-pig job, because she’d seen enough of those.
Day one of the project arrived. After clearing out her messy old cubicle on the ground floor, her next task was to transport her cardboard box of office junk up seven floors to her new quarters. This meant catching the next elevator, which meant pressing the button—a challenge as both her hands languished underneath the box.
A petite hand slapped across the button, solving the problem. Gold nail polish flashed white under the harsh strip lighting. Laura.
“Haven’t pressed it yet.” Her best friend flicked back strands of blond frizz to reveal dark, accusing eyes. “You sure about this? It could kill him.”
“It won’t kill him.”
“His legacy. You know what I’m talking about.”
“Could you be any louder?”
Laura smirked. “They’ll find out soon enough.”
Zoe rotated to cast her gaze over the “they” in question—her colleagues in software usability, trickling into the office. With its musty hardware smell and low-level hum of productivity, it had been home for half a decade, and she hated to leave it even if the rewards promised to be mind-blowing.
“Test him here,” Laura said. “You’d have loads of support.”
“Distraction, you mean.”
“Max Taggart could be worse, for all you know.”
“Max Taggart could be the Antichrist for all I know.” Zoe had combed the Internet for info on her new colleague and future office mate. All she could gather was: male, hotshot project manager, thirty-four, poached from Tenzhong Inc. in Silicon Valley, and too busy being indoctrinated last week to trek to the bottom floor to introduce himself. Neither had she ventured upstairs, because that would have made her look curious or keen, both of which would set the balance of power in his favor, and if there was ever a time in her life when she needed to gain control of a project, it was now.