It’s here at last! After several false starts, my new book, Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, is out. The release date is technically Monday, June 10, but it’s already available in Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and paperback. I’m particularly excited about this book because I visited the settings in person when I was starting to write it, so it has an unusual vividness to me.
Unlike most P&P novels, it is set in Yorkshire. I was getting bored with the usual suspects (Wickham, Lydia, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine), so I decided to have Mr. Darcy prove his merit to Elizabeth Bennet without any of those people involved. Instead, in this book Elizabeth visits her childhood friend, Lady Eleanor Carlisle, at Bentham Park, while Darcy coincidentally stays with Mr. Geoffrey Paxton, whom he met at Cambridge, at nearby Hillington Hall. Since Mr. Paxton is secretly in love with Lady Eleanor, our favorite couple can’t help but cross paths, and fireworks ensue. Some characters from Jane Austen’s other novels cross over into this one – Lord Charles Carlisle is based on Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park, and Miss Elizabeth Eliot makes a visit from the pages of Persuasion.
The scenario for the book was inspired by one word in Pride & Prejudice. When Darcy calls at the Hunsford Parsonage and Elizabeth is alone, they discuss whether Mrs. Collins can be considered to live near her family or not. Darcy says she does, for what is 50 miles of good road? Elizabeth disagrees, noting that Darcy’s income makes travel easier than it would be for the Collinses.
Mr. Darcy drew his chair a little towards her, and said, “You cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at Longbourn.”
Elizabeth looked surprised. The gentleman experienced some change of feeling; he drew back his chair, took a newspaper from the table, and, glancing over it, said, in a colder voice, ”Are you pleased with Kent?”
The key word that intrigued me was “surprised.” It implies to me that Darcy is right, that Elizabeth was influenced by spending significant time elsewhere, and she is surprised that he is able to pick that up. If she had no idea what he was talking about, wouldn’t she have looked puzzled or confused? So I started wondering where Elizabeth might have been in the past and how it would have influenced her. The standard answer is that she would have been visiting the Gardiners, but given that the Gardiners likely did not marry until ten years or so previously, when Elizabeth would have been ten, and it’s hard to think that newlyweds or new parents would really be interested in having a pre-teen niece for long visits. By the time visits like that would have been reasonable, Elizabeth’s character would have already been basically formed. My answer is that Elizabeth spent long periods at Bentham Park, owing to a chance connection with Lady Eleanor when they were both children.
Interested? The first chapter is available on my website. I’ve also put up a page with photos of the settings if you’re interested in seeing how I pictured the book. There’s going to be a group read of Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections at Austenesque Reviews starting on June 21 (re-readers are also welcome for the discussions!) which will include extensive out-takes from earlier versions of the novel. ’Extensive’ in this case means over half the book’s length, so it should be interesting!
Here’s the blurb for Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections:
There’s only one fact that notorious rake Lord Charles Carlisle and his cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, can agree upon: a house party given by the Marquess of Bentham is bound to be intolerably dull. That’s why Lord Charles is delighted to accept a bet that he can seduce his sister’s pretty friend during their stay at Bentham Park. After all, it’s easy money for an experienced seducer, and it will relieve his boredom. Why should he care if his staid cousin Darcy disapproves? But when Darcy discovers that Lord Charles’ new target is none other than Elizabeth Bennet, the woman who just refused Darcy’s offer of marriage, he cannot stand by and watch as the woman he still loves is callously ruined. What he doesn’t know is that Lord Charles has a dark secret, and that his attentions to Elizabeth may not be what they seem.But Darcy has a secret agenda of his own at the house party, one that could change everything at Bentham Park. Add in a midnight rescue, clandestine meetings, a long-lost son, conspiracies, blackmail, and an attempted elopement, and suddenly this house party is anything but dull.
Today Austen Authors is pleased to welcome Angie Kroll, designer of the free Austen Admirers smartphone app. Full disclosure: I’ve already downloaded it onto my Android phone, and it’s fabulous! – Abigail
Correspondence has changed drastically since Jane first put quill to paper. Emails, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Kindles…do you have a headache yet? I know I do. One thing that hasn’t changed since the reign of the Regency era is the need for introductions. How do ‘introductions’ translate to the JAFF readers? A few years ago, I happened to pick up one of Abigail Reynolds’s books off of my library shelf. After finding her on Austen Authors, I was ‘introduced’ to new writers, and thus, made new acquaintances.
As I’m sure you know, the Austen community rallied around the Kickstarter Campaign in February to help build a smartphone application devoted to tech-savvy Jane fans. Thanks to you, it was successful! So today, I’m here to announce the arrival of JAFF’s very first Smartphone Application – Austen Admirers. The goal was to bring together authors, bloggers, and fans of Jane Austen and her works into one easy-to-use application available for Apple and Android devices, such as iPhones, iPads, Tablets and Android Smartphones. Hopefully, we’ve succeeded!
How does the app work?
The app takes RSS Feeds from Austen-related blogs and aggregates them into one mega-feed that runs chronologically, starting with the latest post. Users of the app can scroll through blog titles, read and comment on posts all without leaving the app. Readers can also go to the author tab and ‘be introduced’ to new authors. By clicking on an author link, a reader will be taken to the author’s Amazon page, where they can discover and purchase new titles. Continue reading →
Today’s post was supposed to be the launch of my new book, Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections. I was all set to go with the book. The editors and copy-editors had okayed it. The cover was done, the book was formatted, and all I needed to do was to press the button that said ‘Publish.’ But I kept delaying because something didn’t feel right. Finally I decided to send it out to another set of editors. To my surprise, the new editors loved it, but they did feel that there were places I could improve it — not because of the quality of the writing, but because there was a section where I’d strayed too far from my own writing style.
So I’m in the midst of revisions. I’m trying to have it done by mid-June, so rather than add another delay to the release by writing a separate post, I’m going to give you another long, juicy excerpt from the book. It’s probably best to read the first chapter before this, but if you haven’t, the crucial things to know is that this takes place two months after Hunsford. Elizabeth is visiting her childhood friend, Lady Eleanor Carlisle, at Bentham Park, while Darcy is staying nearby with Geoffrey Paxton, his friend from Cambridge and Lady Eleanor’s secret love — and neither Darcy nor Elizabeth knows about the other’s presence.
From Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections
Lady Bentham rose to her feet. “Eleanor, you may choose a list of dances for the musicians,” she said as if granting a great favor. “No more than two hours’ worth, I think. We do not want to over-tire our guests so soon after their arrival.” She swept out of the room.
“Oh, yes,” said Elizabeth dryly. “It would be a shame to allow the guests to choose how much they wish to dance when we can decide it for them.”
Eleanor gave a look of mock horror before starting to giggle. “You need not worry. After two hours, my stepmother will explain to them that they are tired, regardless of what they believe, and immediately they will start drifting off to sleep like characters from a fairy tale. What is your favorite dance?”
“Mine? You had best choose. I would no doubt pick something that would betray my low origins and make a terrible impression on poor Mr. Paxton.” Elizabeth imitated Lady Bentham’s refined accent. She had heard far more of it than she wished to. In the old days, she and Eleanor had taken their meals in the schoolroom, rather than a formal dining room presided over by Lord and Lady Bentham. The change was not an improvement.
Eleanor heaved a dramatic sigh. “Very well, then. A few country dances, a reel or two, and of course a waltz since we must be modern – and because I have a specific person in mind with whom I wish to waltz. Do you waltz?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Of course not. I have never even seen a waltz. In Meryton, it would be shocking even to speak about it!”
“Oh, you must waltz here, though! I will teach you.” Continue reading →
We have a special poll this week for our Pride & Prejudice Reader’s Choice story, The Bennet Brother. This is your chance to choose which of the ladies in the story will be Edward Bennet’s eventual bride. Think hard about this one! We won’t be announcing the results. You’ll just have to read the story to find out the answer! This poll will be open through 6 a.m. on Thursday, Eastern time.
Who should Edward Bennet eventually marry?
1. The lovely and well dowered Lady Colette Fitzwilliam, younger sister of Colonel Fitzwilliam
2. Miss Caroline Bingley
3. Miss Georgiana Darcy, whose brother will insist on waiting until she is at least 18 years old.
4. The charming and flirtatious Miss Perry of Meryton
5. None of the above
I’m preoccupied with revisions on my next book, which comes out in late May. Much of the inspiration for Darcy’s Noble Connections came from my trip to England in September. Not only did I steal many of my settings from places I saw, but I also found plot inspiration in many of them.
Usually I don’t have concrete settings in mind when I write, but this time I did. I’d had the general plot in mind for some time, but it didn’t take life until I had a brainstorming session with two writer friends while walking the grounds at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. Not surprisingly, there’s a crucial scene in a ruined abbey at Betham Park. Thanks go to fellow author Cassandra Grafton for taking me there and contributing ideas! There are several other Yorkshire settings in the book, including an intense scene on a heather moor which leads to some major changes in the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
On one of the last days of my trip, I visited the beautiful gardens at Nymans. Darcy and Elizabeth kept up a running commentary as I walked, and I just had to go home and transcribe it. As a result, there’s a garden that looks remarkably like Nymans at Rosedale Park in Yorkshire.
There are two stately houses in the book. I used Castle Howard as the model for the imposing Bentham Park, the seat of the Marquess of Bentham whose daughter Elizabeth is visiting. I wanted Bentham Park to overwhelm anyone who enters with its stateliness and power. If you look at the picture of the Great Hall at Castle Howard, you’ll get a sense of that. It’s hard to take a good picture of the Great Hall because it’s so massive.
Neighboring Hillington Hall where Darcy is visiting his friend Paxton is grand, but not on the scope of Bentham Park. I based it loosely on Middlethorpe Hall in York, a stately home now converted into a historic hotel by the National Trust.
But you don’t actually care about any of that, do you? Okay, here’s the first chapter of it to give you a taste of the story, with some illustrations from the real sites. Continue reading →
I spent last weekend playing the part of Jane Austen. I flirted with Tom Lefroy, squabbled with my brother Edward Austen Knight, and played whist with sister Cassandra and sister-in-law Eliza – and the gentlemen were wearing knee-breeches. How fun is that?
Well, it was lots of fun! It was the first of three Jane Austen re-enactment events at Milwaukee’s Schuster Mansion, so we had a fine historical backdrop as well – early Victorian instead of Regency, but who’s counting? The Midwest is rather short on authentic Regency sites.
There are lots of events out there for Jane Austen lovers, and I’ve been to many of them, from book clubs to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, and from the JASNA Annual General Meeting to JAFF gatherings. It’s hard to go wrong, since I love hanging out with other Austen fans. Continue reading →
Working on The Bennet Brother, our Reader’s Choice story, has me thinking about the choices we make in plot twists. I’ve already read the chapter you’ll be getting this week (it’s brilliant), and I’m not giving anything away by saying that Diana Birchall sends the plot in a direction I wouldn’t have thought of. Not that it’s so terribly radical, just different, and it made me think about how I sometimes end up limiting plot choices without realizing I’m doing it.
Writers tend to divide themselves into plotters and pantsters. The plotters outline their plot scene by scene before ever sitting down to write, while the pantsters have a general idea of where they’re going, but fly by the seat of their pants on how to get there. I’m a hybrid. I start each book with a plot outline, and then pitch it out the window halfway through when the characters start demanding to do something different. I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to listen to the characters because they know the story better than I do. But that leads to plot dilemmas.
I first came to grips with this problem in 2002 when I was writing Impulse & Initiative, which was later retitled To Conquer Mr. Darcy. I was posting it online chapter by chapter as I wrote it, and the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth developed into an explosive combination, enough so that when I reached one particular kissing scene, I realized the characters as written wouldn’t stop at kisses as the plot outline demanded. I’d never written an intimate scene before and had a lot of trepidation about the idea. Okay, you can stop laughing now! It really did scare me to death. In fact, my first draft of a love-making scene was one paragraph with four sentences. Oops. Continue reading →
Welcome to first installment of The Bennet Brother, the new interactive group writing project from Austen Authors! Two weeks ago readers voted on a starting scenario for this Pride & Prejudice variation, choosing The Bennet Brother over two other options. At the end of this segment, you’ll have a chance to vote on what happens next. Given that the next installment will be written by Jack Caldwell, I’d choose your option with care!
Full details of the P&P Readers Choice event can be found here, and you can read some of my thoughts about the background of this particular story here. There are also extra details on Twitter where this story has taken on a life of its own. Mr. Edward Bennet (@edwbennet) already has a notable presence and regularly interacts with readers.
The Bennet Brother
Lydia angrily threw down the sprigged muslin dress. “This frock is three seasons old, and everyone knows it was Kitty’s first! Look, you can see where the hem was let out. How can I go to the assembly dressed like a pauper?”
Jane picked up the dress and dusted it off, then folded it neatly. “Perhaps we can sew some trim over the old hemline. I have some new blue ribbon would match the flowers on it perfectly, and it would make it look quite different.”
Mrs. Bennet bustled up and took the dress from her eldest daughter. “Nonsense, Jane. That ribbon is for your hair. You must look your most beautiful when you meet Mr. Bingley!”
Lydia stamped her foot. “Why can’t I be the one to look beautiful for Mr. Bingley? I would look as pretty as Jane in a new dress and new ribbons!”
“Do not fret, my pet. You will have your chance, but Jane has the best chance of fixing Mr. Bingley’s interest now. Just imagine, when you are one-and-twenty, Edward may be able to take you to a ball in London in a new gown! But Jane cannot wait so long. She will be too old by then.”
“Edward, Edward, Edward! I am sick of Edward! Edward gets to live in London. Edward gets fashionable new coats from London tailors. Edward gets a manservant to starch his cravats. And we get nothing! It isn’t fair!” Throwing herself into a chair, Lydia crossed her arms and pouted.
Jane said comfortingly, “You know it is an investment. Edward needs to look the part of a gentleman if he is to catch the interest of an heiress.”
“It does not seem to have helped him so far! And how am I to catch a husband when I look like a poor relation?”
Exasperated, Lizzy said, “You are fifteen years old! You should not even be out, much less trying to catch a husband. If Edward were here, he would stop you from attending the assembly at all, dressed like a pauper or not!”
“Then I hope he never comes home!” Lydia stalked out of the room.
Mrs. Bennet looked after her. “That girl has no pity on my nerves! Of course she wishes for a new dress, and I would be very happy to have one myself. When I was a girl, I dearly loved a new dress.” She smoothed the skirts of her well-worn day dress, then followed her youngest daughter, leaving her two eldest daughters alone.
BE SURE TO VOTE – Click on Continue Reading…
So, are you ready for Pride & Prejudice Readers Choice? I’m not! That’s because I’m writing the first scene of this new Austen Authors group writing project, The Bennet Brother, and I’m probably going to need every minute of the next week to get it done. But it’s already proving to be an interesting experience.
The Bennet Brother has made me discover some interesting things I’d never thought about in Pride & Prejudice before. Here’s the eye-opening one: Darcy would never have made his original insulting comment about Elizabeth at the Meryton assembly if she had a brother or father who would defend her. I’ve played it through in all kinds of scenarios with different male characters involved and different social settings in the country and in town, and gentlemen just didn’t insult women publicly if they had a male protector around. Can you imagine Darcy insulting Charlotte Lucas at the assembly? No, because her father was there and involved with her, and likely a brother or two as well. Darcy can say what he likes about Elizabeth because he knows she’s unprotected. That concept made me stop in my tracks, I can tell you!
I’ve also had to rethink my initial assumptions about how things would have changed for the Bennets if they had a son. Before I started working on the backstory, I assumed this would mean that their future would be assured because of the end of the entail, and that there would be less pressure on the daughters to marry since they wouldn’t be losing their home. Unfortunately, that scenario didn’t hold up when I looked at it carefully.
Longbourn barely supports the current seven inhabitants – Mr. & Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters – with no extra income to put aside. Now, suppose Mr. Bennet dies, leaving Longbourn to his son Edward, who then marries and has three children. If none of his sisters marry, the income from Longbourn now has to support eleven people. See the problem? At least some of the sisters need to marry anyway. Continue reading →
The poll has closed, and the readers have chosen. With 179 votes counted, the P&P Reader’s Choice story scenario will be…
The Bennet Brother
Elizabeth has an older, very protective brother. Returning to Hertfordshire after a time away, he is not pleased to learn of his favorite sister being insulted by Mr. Darcy! Will he confront the emotionally-conflicted Darcy? Does Lizzy’s brother know Mr. Darcy, or has he heard rumors of him? Or perhaps vice versa? And what about this mysterious brother, anyway?
The first post will be on January 30, and it’ll be by me, so I’d better get cracking!
For complete information on Pride & Prejudice: Reader’s Choice, visit the page noted in the menu above, or click HERE.