Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Halloween Cards for Twisted Austen!

Those of you who read last week's post on the Northanger Abbey themed cards I made may recall the issues I had finding frightening quotes to feature, even in Austen's gothic parody. On further consideration, I came to much the same conclusion as that which inspired this entire Twisted Austen endeavor: it is not ghosts and ghouls that Jane found terrifying, but moral deficiency and failing. The most harrowing moments in Austen's novels are not fantastic. Instead they are very realistic depictions of the foibles and cruelties of humans inflict on themselves and others. These are the themes I explored in Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid last year, and even more so in this year's story, Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling. With these thoughts in mind, I decided to make a second set of Halloween cards for giveaway during Twisted Austen, highlighting some of the more harrowing moments in Austen. Both sets of cards were made using Martha Stewart halloween stencils, which I happened to find on sale at Michaels (a great buy! I've been using them for all kinds of seasonal projects with my daughter as well), and some of the cards in this second set turned out rather witty, if I may say so myself. I selected the stencils used to provide a bit of commentary on the quotes featured, a fact which I hope is readily apparent to all. For example, I quote Fanny Dashwood's objections to providing Mrs. Dashwood an annuity and adorned the card with a skull and crossbones. Get it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on them:

"I am not going to urge her," replied Mrs. Norris sharply; "but I shall
think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do what
her aunt and cousins wish her - very ungrateful, indeed, considering
who and what she is." - Mansfield Park
There was no wound, no blood, no-visible bruise; but her eyes were
closed, she breathed not, her face was like death. The horror of the
 moment to all who stood around! - Persuasion
Why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet's having some
hope of a return? It darted through her, with the speed of an arrow,
that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself! - Emma
"To be sure," said she, "it is better than parting with fifteen hundred
pounds at once. But, then, if Mrs. Dashwood should live fifteen
 years we shall be completely taken in." - Sense & Sensibility
"When my eyes were opened to his real character. - Oh! had I known
 what I ought, what I dared, to do! But I knew not - was afraid of
doing too much.Wretched, wretched, mistake!" - Pride & Prejudice
 The pile of swag is building up. I am going to do a giveaway each of the eight days of the event, with a grand prize on the last day (Halloween), featuring a selection of all the goodies I've made for the occasion, along with a complete set of my Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice series. I hope you will all join in the fun!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lantern Theater Company's production of Emma

Friday night my husband and I were so fortunate as to attend a performance of Emma by the Lantern Theater Company, Philadelphia. It was spectacular! While determined to see it, I felt some trepidation, having been more disappointing than enthused by the production of Pride & Prejudice adapted by Jon Jury of Actor's Theater of Louisville, which I saw performed at Actors in 2008 (just a few months before I started blogging, which unfortunately means I have no record of my thoughts from the time). My concerns were needless. This Michael Bloom adaptation is pretty much everything I could hope for in an Emma play. Combined with stellar acting, beautiful direction, innovative costuming (particularly for the ladies), and smart set design, it was one of the most gratifying theatrical experiences I have ever had, and it has been one of the great privileges of my life to see some of the finest productions in the world.

My joy in this show might somewhat be attributable to the heavy influence of the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow movie, which is my preferred Emma. I perceived the similarities right off the bat, particularly in the hair styling: the elegant ladies (Emma, Mrs. Weston, and later Jane Fairfax) coiffed in a more controlled, Victorian manner, while the curls associated with the Regency were only worn by the less refined (Harriet Smith, Miss Bates, Mrs. Elton), just as in Douglas McGrath's film. Then Miss Bates appeared (portrayed by Charlotte Northeast, who was also Mrs. Weston), and it was almost as if Sophy Thompson herself had walked onto stage, complete with monosyllabic blarings at Mrs. Bates in a questionable attempt to compensate for deafness. Here the influence was undeniable, but it could be more subtly detected in Lauren Sowa's depiction of Emma Woodhouse, which was fabulous.

Other Emma films left their mark of the production. When Harriet (Angela Smith, also Mrs. Elton) poses for her portrait, she adopts the awkward Grecian posture of Louise Dylan in the 2009 mini-series, Mr. Woodhouse (Peter DeLaurier) resembles Donald Eccles (my favorite Mr. Woodhouse!) in the 1972 mini-series, and we get glimpses into Emma's fantasy life a la 1996 Kate Beckinsale, but the Hollywood depiction reigns supreme, right down to the kiss shared by Emma and Knightley at the climax. Oh Knightley ...

The entire cast of the play was superb, but Mr. Knightley particularly shown from my perspective. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that I've never been perfectly satisfied with any of the actors who have played Mr. Knightley in the films, but I thought Harry Smith's was the best portrayal I have seen. He was magnificent, inspiring a new appreciation in myself for his character. The criticisms Mr. Smith's Knightley leveled at Emma seemed more biting than I have usually imagined them to be, and I liked him all the more for it. Fortunate for me, the same actor will be performing at the People's Light and Theater this spring in a different adaptation of Pride & Prejudice than the one I saw. Mr. Smith will be Mr. Wickham, and you better believe I'm not going to miss it for the world.

Emma runs through November 3rd. If you are anywhere near Philadelphia, I urge you to see it.

Despairing that this gem of a play may not ever make to your neck of the woods? Why not buy a copy of the script: http://www.amazon.com/Emma-Michael-Bloom/dp/0573698996/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382382417&sr=8-1&keywords=emma+by+Michael+Bloom

Handmade Copies of Emma & Elton ready for Twisted Austen!

This is the week! The fun begins on Thursday with the first section of Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling, a piece of which I will post each day through the end of the month. I'm still fiddling with the story a bit, so I have not yet had an opportunity to treat it in the same manner as last year's Emma and Elton: Something Truly Horrid, which I have hand bound into an extremely limited edition paper back (I only made three). Two of the copies, along with lots of my handmade Halloween cards (see the first completed set here) and copies of my novels will be available for giveaway during my Twisted Austen event. So stop by each day, stay updated on this dark alternative perspective version of Pride & Prejudice, and enter to win fabulous prizes. I can think of few more gratifying manners in which to celebrate Halloween then with Austenesque tricks and treats. Take a gander at the Emma & Elton folios. I'm so please with how they came out!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holidays at Pemberley Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

There's a great review of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes up at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell. You can check it out here:


Sometimes the comments on blog reviews are highly enlightening. The comments on this post were very surprising. Particularly, several people mentioned they found the cover creepy. When I first found the image used for the cover, it was like Charlotte Lucas was staring back at me. I immediately decided it was perfect for this book, right down to the holly surrounding her. I may have a skewed view of what constitutes creepy (I have a sister who specializes in very "creepy" art, much of which adorns my walls - if there isn't a skeleton or fetus involved, I tend to think am image is perfectly idyllic), so I'm asking you, my dear followers: what do you think of the cover? If you find it creepy, I would love an explanation. There is much to be learned from such feedback.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Cards and Jane Bingley: Twisted Austen 2013

I seem to begin a lot of posts with the word "so."

So here are the Austen Halloween cards that I've made for what I am struggling to brand Twisted Austen. I intend an annual event, barring the unexpected, in honor of Halloween. 

Here's the problem: Jane Austen isn't exactly Edgar Allen Poe. Her work really isn't very Halloweeny. With Christmas she has some affinity, if in the form of Caroline Bingley's snarky greetings, but with Halloween? There's a stretch. It's just like these cards (for more on process, proceed here), which feature quotes from  Northanger Abbey, but even Austen's spookiest novel afford's little fodder. I think my favorite is "Our foggy climate wants help," courtesy of Mr. Thorpe.

I believe I described Emma and Elton: Something Truly Horrid as an Austenesque nightmare when trying to promote it last year: no ghouls or mayhem, but still terribly wrong. This year I'm presenting Jane and Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling. I hope the title, like it's predecessors, conveys enough warning to those whom it might offend to keep them from ever reading it all. I offer these stories to those who find the nightmares of others compelling, and duly urge all others to keep their distance. These are not happy stories. 

I also referred to Emma and Elton as an entirely opposite endeavor to Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice, a story so happy as to invoke the ire of some readers. Things went very poorly for Miss Woodhouse last year. This year's story doesn't actually alter Austen's plot line in the least (hence slightly unsettling instead of truly horrid). Jane and Bingley is a retelling of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of a very different Jane Bennet, not a reimagination of the story. Here's a small taste, still subject to further editing:

"It is to be uncommonly dreadful. I  expect murder
and everything of the kind"

Elizabeth smiled brightly in greeting. “You look well rested! No adverse effects from last evening’s frivolity?”

Jane returned the expression. “No. My daring journey to the drawing room has not set back my recovery. I feel much improved.”

“Good! I was hoping you would, and not only for my own selfish reasons. Nothing matters more to me than your well-being, my dearest sister, but I am anxious to return home. Let us write to Longbourn and request the carriage.”

Jane saw Elizabeth’s eagerness, but she could not share it. She was not prepared to leave Netherfield just yet, nor did she think her sister should. She would have preferred it had Mr. Darcy expressed such an interest in herself, for to be Mrs. Darcy would be something, indeed, but Elizabeth was the next best person he could possibly have alighted upon. Mr. Darcy was too precious an opportunity - wealthy, handsome, and respectable - to quibble over which sister should have him.

"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors
that a building such as 'what one reads about' may produce?
She considered her options, quickly concluding that her mother would see the situation in much the same light as herself, even without knowing Mr. Darcy to be a prospect. I do wish Mama had not insulted him! Safe in the knowledge that Mrs. Bennet would never concede to the request, Jane aceeded to Elizabeth’s wishes, and a letter to Mrs. Bennet was promptly dispatched. When the expected refusal arrived, she participated in Elizabeth’s chagrin while inwardly rejoicing. There was a great deal of satisfaction to be derived in rightfully predicting the actions of others. Furthermore, the color had begun to return to her checks, which must be of assistance in subduing Mr. Bingley’s heart, and she had at least a few more days to enjoy the luxuries of Netherfield while accomplishing that task.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not to be so easily satisfied. Soon she was at Jane’s side, continuing to insist on their departure. “You might request the carriage of Mr. Bingley,” she argued, adding, “ I fear we might become an imposition, were we to linger any longer.”

Jane scurried to defend her position  “Might it not be too forward a request? I would hate to be a further inconvience, after having already caused so much.”

“Nonsense, Jane! Only you would imagine such a commonplace courtesy too much to ask.”

Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room.
A violent gust of wind, rising with sudden fury,
added fresh horror to the moment.

She tried again. “I would rather not display our lack of access to the carriage.”

“Says the lady who arrived upon a dripping wet horse!” Elizabeth laughed. “It will not do, my dear! Besides, do you truly imagine that every person Netherfield did not know precisely how many horses my father keeps and what kind of equipage before they had been a full week in residence?”

Jane could think of no further excuse. She would have to ask Mr. Bingley to return them to Longbourn. Now she lamented her rosy checks. If she could only contrive to look wain and subdued, her hosts might forbid her departure.

Fortunate for Jane, the energy required to join the others downstairs restored her sickly pallor. With breathy weariness did she make her request, sitting in languor beside the fire, and the response received was everything she could have wished.

“My dear Jane!” Miss Bingley cried. “But you do not appear at all recovered. I’m surprised you chose to leave your room.” She looked at Elizabeth accusingly. “I’m sure you are not yet ready to travel.”

"Our foggy climate wants help."

“But Caroline, I have already caused you such a great deal of trouble ...”

“Nonsense! You must remain with us at least until tomorrow. If you continue to improve, you may return to Longbourn after the morning service. I insist!”

“Very well,” Jane conceded with a look towards Elizabeth that she hoped appeared apologetic. “We shall leave tomorrow, as you insist.”

“Thank you for your continued hospitality,” Elizabeth chimed in, “and for the accommodation of your coach.”

“Not at all,” Miss Bingley replied, with an expression that suggested she might regret her own generosity. She is jealous of Lizzy, as she well should be! Jane reflected happily. 

Would the veil which Mrs. Tilney had last walked,
or the volume in which she had last read, remain to tell what
nothing else was allowed to whisper?

Jane studied Mr. Darcy closely that evening, but with no satisfaction for her efforts. He paid not the slightest bit of undue attention to her sister or to any of the other ladies. If anything, he seemed to be assiduously avoiding Elizabeth’s company. He fears he might raise expectations, Jane thought with mingled respect and regret. He is the perfect gentleman. She sympathized with his reluctance to associate himself with the Bennet family. So long as he doesn’t apply the same scruples to his friend. She understood he was dominate over Bingley in their friendship - in every way the bigger man - and feared his influence. Turning her brightest smile upon Mr. Bingley, she responded to his urgent insistence that she remain for yet another day with a regretful but firm refusal. It would not do to rouse Mr. Darcy’s suspicions regarding her affection for his friend, but neither could she allow her behavior to betray anything but perfect decorum. Suddenly, all attempts to remain longer seemed uncouth and mercenary. 

Twisted Austen will commence October 24th and end on Halloween, with one section of the story posting each day. The entire story will then be available for free download both here and on Goodreads. Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling will also be available for Kindle and Nook, at the cheapest price they will permit me to sell it. Along with the cards, other goodies will be up for grabs, including copies of my books. Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

This is another book I tore through while in San Francisco a few weeks ago. I adore Kara Louise's books (especially the often overlooked Master Under Good Regulation, my review of which you can read here), and this one fully met my rather inflated expectations.  This is the second time Ms. Louise has taken Darcy and Elizabeth's romance onto the high seas (she previously did so in Darcy's Voyage, my review of which you can read here), but I think Pirates & Prejudice was even better than its predecessor. I mean - Pirate Darcy?!?! It can't really get any more awesome than that.

But how did the upstanding and conscientious Mr. Darcy take on a life of piracy? I was a bit hesitant on this point when first considering the concept, but Ms. Louise pulls it off perfectly. Devastated by Elizabeth's rejection at Hunsford, Mr. Darcy dismisses his valet and drowns his sorrows in drink. Unshaven, dirty, and disoriented, he is mistaken by a few law enforcers for the escaped pirate Lockerly, scourge of the high seas. It takes a bit for poor Darcy's protestations to be heeded, but eventually one Foster, a police inspector, proves receptive. However, instead of granting Mr. Darcy his freedom and abjectly apologizing for the manner in which he had been treated, Mr. Foster has plans to lure the pirate out of hiding, using the bearded Mr. Darcy, who bears a strong resemblance to Lockerly, as bait. They have his ship, and Darcy is asked to start recruiting a crew, posing as Lockerly all the while. So you see, duty to country and justice impels Mr. Darcy to bare his chest and speak in cant, along with a justified fear of Foster exposing his plight should he fail to comply. It is all perfectly characteristic.

Back at Longbourn, Mr. Bennet receives a letter from an ailing sister in the Isles of Scilly. He and his favorite daughter embark on a visit, thus setting the stage for swashbuckling romance. Obviously, neither Darcy nor Elizabeth's adventures can proceed smoothy, for it they did, we could never have this scene:
The crewman with the short rope wrapped it around them snugly. As he cinched it tight and knotted it, the two stood as close as any two people could be. Elizabeth felt her heart pound as she considered she had never been so close to a man before. She felt weak and precariously close to collapsing in a heap at his feet, despite being tied together at their waists. To prevent herself from fallen, she quickly reached up and wrapped her arms about his neck, holding on tightly. 
The captain responded with a deep moan and quickly brought his one arm around her. She felt him draw her in even closer than she had believed possible. A sensation of euphoria swept over her, and she found herself readily resting her head against his chest. She could hear his thundering heartbeat and wondered if it was beating more vigorously than hers.  
"Now hold on tight, Miss Bennet." His lips brushed the hair by her ear as e huskily whispered these words. She felt her legs begin to tremble and suspected he felt it as well, as he gripped her even more firmly. 
"Are ye ready?" he whispered softly; his breath seemed to warm her to her innermost being. 
"Yes," she said, as she lifted her head to look up at him. She saw his dark eyes looking down at her, a single brow raised. 
"Ye are not afraid?"  
"On the contrary, I believe I shall enjoy this immeasurably!" 
He inhaled deeply and whispered, "As will I." 
As he was about to step off, she asked with a nervous laugh, "You have done this before, have you not?" 
"Never!" he said, and the next thing she knew, she was lifted off the ground, and they were swinging through the air. She held on tightly, wanting desperately to keep her head snuggled up against his chest, while at the same time wishing to look up, down, and out to see what was happening.  
She finally turned her head and opened her eyes, just as they came over the Devil's Seamaiden's bow. She felt the rope lower, and the next thing she knew, they had come to a stop. The captain landed squarely on his feet, but he continued to hold her up in his arms. He finally relaxed his grip around her waist slightly, allowing her feet to touch the deck.
This book was such fun! A world away from Jane Austen, yet somehow still safe and snug within her parameters. I highly recommend this thoroughly entertaining story.

Please check out my other reviews of Kara Louise's novels, all of which are excellent.

                       Assumed Engagement
Assumed Obligation
                       Darcy's Voyage
                       Master Under Good Regulation
                       Something like Regret 

This is my tenth review for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentennial Celebration 2013, hosted by Austenprose. Please see my others below:

Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory  
Pride and Platypus by Vera Nazarian 
Mr. Darcy's Little Sister vs. And This Our Life by C. Allyn Pierson 
An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris 
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers 
The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell 
Pride and Prejudice (1995): Influence and Merits 
His Uncle's Favorite by Lory Lilian 
Mr. Darcy's Refuge and Mr. Darcy's Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds

Holidays at Pemberley Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club

There are two copies of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes up for grabs at My Jane Austen Book Club, along with a very revealing excerpt from the book. Please stop by and sign up to win!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Charlotte's Spoiler Part Three: And They Lived Happily Ever After

Again, please stop right now and read no further if you want any mystery to attend your reading of Charlotte Lucas' romance in Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes, for the following will ruin it all. Why am I sharing it anyway? A poignant question to which I have no rational response. 

So nearly all the pieces of Charlotte's puzzle have now been exposed except how the inevitable understanding with Mr. Westover finally comes about. For this last spoiler excerpt to make sense, it does help to have read the prologue to my story (you'll find it here). I hope those of you who have enjoyed this exposure will find the following gratifying.

Soon the sun betrayed sure signs of descent and they began to pack their things and head back to Pemberley, where Mr. Westover was engaged to dine. As he handed Miss Lucas over the worst of the snaggled roots in their path, he knew that anything private he wished to say to her must be conveyed now, for the activity of a dinner party could not allow the kind of disclosures he wished to make. The problem was finding the right words. Verse could help him no more.

He looked at her pleadingly, and Miss Lucas instinctively understood his plight. How odd that so many misunderstandings had proceeded this moment, when now his every expression spoke volumes to her! “You wish to say something, Mr. Westover,” she prompted him.

“Indeed, Miss Lucas,” he found his tongue. “I just want you to know what a great pleasure this afternoon has been. I cannot thank you enough for your company.”

She smiled shyly, “I fear I offered you little more than my presence. As far as conversation is concerned, you might as well have been alone.”

“Not at all,” he asserted seriously. “You presence has been invaluable.”

She blushed. “I cannot see how.”

“Can you not?” he inquired earnestly. “I do want to make my intentions very clear Miss Lucas, in order to be certain that there shall be no more confusion. Unless you urge me to desist, when next I call upon you at an unconscionably early hour, you may expect to hear the words which you once awaited, though my own stupidity then failed to understand what you were owed.”

“You have no obligation towards me, Mr. Westover,” she quickly insisted, unaccountably terrified to hear him confess that for which she had longed. “Please do not act out of some sense of duty, to me or anyone else.”

He looked confused, and asked, “What do you mean?”

Grasping at the easiest explanation, she hastily confessed, “Mrs. Hendley came to visit me some days ago.”  

“My sister?” he asked in confusion, then a rapid consciousness descended upon his face. “So she could not restrain herself from interfering! I might have suspected so much. She has not been imposing on you?”

“Not at all, but she did lead me to understand your purpose,” she blushed, “and I just hope your intentions are formulated upon your own feelings, and not something that might have been urged upon you, either by myself or anyone else.”

“Miss Lucas,” he said earnestly, and in all seriousness, “I assure you with all my soul that I have loved you from the very first moment we met, which is to say all my life.”

Her look intensified. “You remember?”

He nodded. “I did not know who you were until Cordelia enlightened me. I am the most impossible dullard to have not instantly recognized you.”

“I did not know you either,” she hurried to confess. “It was not until I returned to Hertfordshire that I learned you were the boy from all those years ago. Your sister said something that made me understand she knew me, but I did not know if she had told you who I was.”

“I never had much interest in women, always consumed by science, but for as long as I can remember I thought that if I should ever again meet the kind girl who was so good to me so many years ago, that she should be the lady with whom I would spend my life. I just never believed it should really happen.” He clasped her hand, and Charlotte’s heart felt as if it might burst from her breast. “I love you, Charlotte Lucas. Do I have your permission to court you?”

“No,” she declared breathlessly, a laugh in her voice. “I am far too old for courting, Mr. Westover.  You shall have to do much better than that.”

He smiled at her crookedly. “Marry me, Charlotte. I cannot promise perfect happiness, but I do feel certain that we will be most content.”

Through tears glistening in her eyes, Charlotte joyfully replied, “What a reasonable aspiration! Yes, Mr. Westover, I will be delighted to relish perfect contentment by your side.”

Their return to Pemberley might have taken longer than one would usually expect, but far too soon they there arrived. Though they need not part for long, Charlotte loathed relinquishing his grasp. 

“I will see you at dinner,” were his parting words, and though the statement was commonplace enough, the intimate look that accompanied it left Charlotte succumbing to a senseless, overpowering joy. She nearly skipped up the stairs to her quarters, a wildly different creature than she was, yet somehow, for the first time, precisely whom she was always meant to be.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Charlotte's Spoiler Part Two: Mr. Bennet Intervenes

Warning: If you plan to read Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes and want the romance to retain a modicum of suspense and surprise, please do not read this post.

Yesterday I provided a glimpse into a brokenhearted (if she'll only admit it) Miss Lucas. Today I'd like to begin the mending process. I have already shared some of this. Mr. Bennet first declares his intention to interfere in the excerpt contained in the post My Mr. Bennet, and Mrs. Hendley (sister to my hero, David Westover) brings Charlotte to task in the post Meeting Cordelia Hendley. The following short exchange takes place in the time between those two, when Mr. Bennet confronts Mr. Westover at the Twelfth Night ball:

Mr. Bennet was pleased to find himself seated beside Mr. Westover, with whom he had been hoping to speak. The conversation began on scientific subjects, of a style Mr. Bennet was sure would gain his neighbor’s attention, and when the man was quite in his element, rhapsodizing on the effects of local river erosion, he interrupted the speech with this diversion: “Miss Lucas told me of your great knowledge of such matters, Mr. Westover. You have secured yourself a warm admirer in that lady.”

David nearly choked on his food. “I have?”

“Do you not know it? I was under the impression that the two of you spent a great deal of time together when she was a guest at Pemberley last year.”

“Indeed, we did, but I had no notion our friendship would be recalled after she returned to her own home and interests,” he said modestly.

“Well, that is quite possibly true, as I have not heard her mention you these many months,” he noted with satisfaction that the hopeful rector’s face fell.  “Do not fret over it, sir! I’m sure she will return again one day, and then your intercourse is sure to resume as before.”

He shook his head. “I fear Miss Lucas will never again be at ease in my company. I said something at which she may have taken offense before her departure, and we never did resolve the matter. If she were to come visit, the kindest thing for me to do might be retreat to my family home.”

“Nonsense! Charlotte Lucas is one of the most practical ladies I have ever known, and I assure you, Mr. Westover, that I have known a great many more than I ever cared to. She would not allow mere misunderstanding to determine her sentiments towards another. Explain yourself and all will be right. It’s amazing what straightforward conversation, unhindered by societal nonsense, can often accomplish.”

The rector looked doubtful, and before Mr. Bennet could stop her, the little known lady to his left demanded his attention. There was nothing to be done but let the matter go. For now, he knew as much as he needed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Holidays at Pemberley Giveaway Winner Announced and Charlotte's Spoiler Part One

Sorry it took me a few days to post this. I had a very busy weekend doting on my daughter, something I hadn't properly done in a few weeks.

The winner of the giveaway copy of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes is ...

Vesper Meikle!

Congratulations! Expect an email from me requesting the pertenant details.

Spolier Alert!

You may have noticed that I've been greatly enjoying giving away all the twists and turns in my new book, a practice I've always avoided in the past. It's just too much fun to resist, and after requesting giveaway entrants to predict what might happen to Charlotte, it only seems fair to publicly resolve her fate. The following excerpt takes place towards the end of Charlotte's first stay at Pemberley, following the Darcys marriage. During her visit, she has developed a close friendship with David Westover, the rector at Kympton. She and everyone else readily assumes his attentions equate courtship, but in the case of our absent-minded rector, such conclusions prove seriously flawed:

What are you grinning about, Charlotte? You look inordinately amused.”

“Your mother and mine have been gossiping about Mr. Westover.”

“That can’t be what so diverts you,” retorted Elizabeth, “for it is precisely the same manner in which we have been warding off boredom ourselves. Dear me! I do hope we are not turning into them!”

Charlotte laughed, “It would be proper punishment for us, too. We really should let the poor man alone.”

“That would be easier done,” said Georgiana with a shy smile, “if he was not so ready to bring himself to our attention.”

“Quite true, Georgiana!” applauded Elizabeth. “How shall poor Charlotte defend her position against such assault?”

“I shall not, having no wish to belabor the point. You will travel far before you will find someone more eager to surrender.”

“Nice derobement, Charlotte, as Mr. Darcy might say! We now have no choice but to change the subject.”

“I fear we shall have some difficulty in that,” Charlotte said with a cool smile, admirably concealing the rushing thrill of emotion she felt at the sight of Mr. Westover through the window, approaching the house with a meaningful stride.

“But it is not yet eleven o’clock!” cried Georgiana, rushing to the window to inspect the situation more closely. “Must he not be coming to ask Miss Lucas to marry him?”

Though the thought had already occurred to the two older ladies, neither replied to Georgiana’s question. Instead, Elizabeth busied herself helping Charlotte to straighten her cap and adjust her shawl. By the time the rector was announced, Miss Lucas was as admirably positioned as female ingenuity could contrive. 

“Good morning, Mr. Westover,” greeted Elizabeth cheerfully. “I am afraid Mr. Darcy went out on horseback after breakfast, and we do not expect him home until later this morning. Did you have some particularly pressing business to discuss?”

“No indeed, Mrs. Darcy, and a very good morning to you too,” he beamed. “I came to speak with Miss Lucas, if she might spare me a moment.”

“Of course, won’t you Charlotte? Georgiana and I were just on our way to converse with Mrs. Reynolds, and your company will keep Charlotte from being unbearably dull,” and before the protest that hovered on Georgiana’s lips could be uttered, Elizabeth ushered her sister from the room.

“They needn’t have left,” he said with a tinge of confusion, though amusement reigned on his mien. “I did not mean to frighten them off. I hope my company is not so very boring.”

“Not at all, Mr. Westover,” protested Charlotte. “I think your conversation amongst the most interesting I have encountered.”

He smiled crookedly, “Now that your experience of society has been so measurably extended as to include my own, that means a great deal.”

She laughed, feeling far more at ease, “I thought we agreed you would not continue holding the limits of my experience against me!”

He mocked effrontery. “Indeed, Madame, and never I shall, except when it is to my decided advantage.” Both expressed their diversion, and he continued, “It is precisely for your great breadth of experience that I come to you today. I have a puzzle that requires your attention.”

“I will be happy to give it, but I must protest against any qualifications you so wrongly attribute to me in seeking my opinion.”

“No! You must not. I rely on your taste, sensibility, and judgment, if you must have a litany of your accomplishments, and I have unwavering faith in all three.”

Charlotte, allowing her practical self to be swept away in the moment, grew saucy. “And what role have you planned to thrust on me? If I did not know better, I would think you describe the qualifications of a wife.”

He looked at her quizzically, “I suppose they would do very well in such a case, but I had rather intended critic.”

Now she looked confused. “Critic? Of what?”

He pulled a small stone from his pocket. “I was attempting a rendering of this specimen, but have been unable to properly capture the color. Tell me – would you begin with green or blue as the foundation? I have tried both, but no matter how much white I add, neither seem to give me just the right shade.”

Charlotte looked at him aghast, only slowly recovering herself. “This is what you wished to see me about?” she asked, taking the stone in one shaking hand.

He nodded affirmatively, inspecting her so closely that she felt the specimen, rather than the chunk of mineral in her hand. Staring at it intently and blinking tears from her eyes, she managed to say, “I think you might want to begin by blending a grey, and then add just a touch blue. I cannot detect any green in the shade.”

“Begin with grey,” he nodded, taking the rock from her extended hand and uncomfortably turning towards the window, where he looked out in seeming reverie. Charlotte silently thanked him for this opportunity to compose herself. 

“Miss Lucas?” he asked tentatively, some moments later.

“Yes, Mr. Westover?” she replied, unable to conceal the anxiety in her voice.

“I do not like to mention what can only be mortifying to us both, but I fear there has been some dreadful misunderstanding, and my regard and admiration for you is too strong to not offer some semblance of explanation.” He paused, and she signaled for him to continue, “You see, I have never had any inclination for marriage, nor thought to live with any woman other than my sister. What kind of husband would I be, always busy in my library, taking irregular meals, and gallivanting about at all hours? It would be unfair to ask anyone to bear such a burden. You might do much better than me, Miss Lucas.”

Thousands of reasons why this was patently untrue swarmed through her mind, but she remained silent. 

“I will not wait for Mrs. Darcy to return,” he said formally, all trace of their easy companionship destroyed. “Please bid her farewell on my behalf. Good morning, Miss Lucas.”

“Good morning, Mr. Westover.”

Check back tomorrow for Charlotte's Spoiler Part Two: The Intervention of Mr. Bennet.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Mr. Bennet

My Mr. Bennet is an odd duck, but so is Austen's. The primary difference is that hers learned some humility when Lydia ran off with Wickham, while mine has never had a reason to lament: "It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it." I had not envisioned him becoming quite so meddlesome when I wrote First Impressions, but somewhere during the course of Second Glances he became a force unto himself. I really cannot bring him into line, no more than I can make Lydia any less than "invariably silly." 

In Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes, Mr. Bennet does meet with a degree of failure in his attempted machinations. I've already provided several spoilers to the story, and I must hold something back, but here is a glimpse into the man's mind, as revealed through a conversation with his favorite daughter, at the end of her first year as mistress of Pemberley:

“Lizzy? Might I intrude upon you?”

Elizabeth looked up from her accounts with a surprised smile. “Of course, Papa. I had not thought to see you but at meals and social occasions.”

“I have made no good reputation for myself, in that case. What a house guest to be saddled with: barging in upon you unexpectedly, and in the most surprising company, and then I do not even put myself out to be agreeable, cloistering myself away in your most excellent library!”

“If you behaved otherwise with such a temptation on hand, then I would be concerned. You know you are always welcome, and I cannot imagine who you might bring to my door who wouldn’t be.”

Mr. Bennet smiled enigmatically and changed the subject. “I have been thinking of Miss De Bourgh’s desire for Miss Lucas’ company. Is there any particular reason why you did not invite her to join us this year?”

Elizabeth noted something in her book. “I would love it if Charlotte were here, but I was unable to contrive her conveyance.”

“Perhaps Jane and Bingley can collect her on their way North?” he suggested. 

“I fear it is too late to act on your plan. Why do you concern yourself in the matter, Papa? It is unlike you.”

“I think Miss Lucas was sorry to not see you this year. She, her mother, and Miss Maria called not long before our departure, and while I only spoke to either for the briefest moment, I thought I detected some dissatisfaction in Miss Lucas’ eye. She asked how you were most sincerely.” She eyed him suspiciously, which he ignored and continued speaking, examining a nonexistent spot on his cuff all the while. “Miss Lucas has seemed rather downcast ever since she came home from Derbyshire early last spring. There was talk that she was nursing a broken heart, but perhaps that was just a ready defense, providing her a sort of distinction amongst her companions. Next to being married, a girl does likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of.”

“Papa! Have you come here to gossip?”

“Well, yes. I supposed so, if you must term it such. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?" 

“If you would like to speak on any other subject, I will be happy to indulge you, sir,” she laughed in spite of herself, “but I will not expose Charlotte in such a manner.”

“Nor should you! To do so knowingly would be a violation of the dictates of feminine friendship, but as you have only accidently betrayed your friend Miss Lucas, your conscience need not be burdened. I believe I know what happened.”

“Do you?” asked Elizabeth, feeling a great deal of disbelief that the conversation she found taking part in was real.

“Yes,” he said matter-of-factly. “It was Mr. Westover. Poor man didn’t know he was in love until after she left, I suppose, for I can’t imagine Miss Lucas rejecting a proposal, considering her circumstances.”

“And when did you discern all this?”

“Last evening at dinner. Mr. Westover is not the man he was.”

“You are a quick study of characters,” Elizabeth replied evasively, “but why concern yourself in the matter at all?”

“I do not like to see Miss Lucas cast down. I never thought the lady had much heart to lose, but I fear I was wrong.”

Elizabeth looked deeply concerned. “Is she that changed?”

“Only to the eyes of those who can see, and there are exceedingly few of us. I suppose I must do something about it.”

Elizabeth stared at him in astonishment. “What?” she demanded. 

“I am not yet sure,” he admitted.

“Really Papa,” she admonished. “Have you not had enough of matchmaking? If you must concern yourself on a lady’s behalf, do you not have two very fine daughters remaining from which to choose.”

“I meant to say something to you on that subject, incidentally,” he turned the conversation.  “Kitty is a great deal improved, do you not think?”

“Yes, indeed I do.”

“I wish you might consider having her with you this summer. Georgiana is a good influence on her, and perhaps she may guide Lydia a bit, too. My youngest is a necessary part of the package, you understand,” he shuddered to think of Lydia’s complaints should she be left out of such an arrangement.

“I think it an excellent idea and will speak to Mr. Darcy about it this evening. It would be a very nice surprise for the girls, too, do you not think so?”

“Indeed! Very well then, I shall return to my favorite haunt. Excuse the interruption, my dear!” and he took himself off, his daughter smiling inquisitively behind him.

Want to win a copy? This international giveaway is open through October 4th: http://alexaadams.blogspot.com/2013/09/holiday-at-pemberley-published.html