Evolving “Mistress,” and a Giveaway

Evolving “Mistress,” and a Giveaway

Although I’ve posted here for quite some time, readers may have noticed two things missing from my posts: a new release, and a giveaway. It’s finally time to rectify both of those things!

The reason for my lack of new books is twofold: first, my main track of writing is in a continuation series, where each book seems quite determined to be very long and full of subplots. I will be very fortunate if I get more than one installment of the Constant Love series out in a given year! The second is that my side project, Mistress, has been slowly aging (like wine, I hope) since it first ate my brain in November of 2015.

Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, with Parts Not Suitable for Those Who Have Not Reached Their Majority

When it ate my brain, it was fun and exciting to work on, but all of the discipline I usually use in writing went out the window. There was no high-level timeline, no mid-level timeline, and no detailed outline. Yes, okay, I might be a little a little over-organized. Two out of the three of these have only been required to maintain an extended series. But I do always like to work from an outline, and with Mistress I forged ahead without one.

I made my own edits as much as I could, and then posted it for an online beta in the summer of 2016, and I am ever so glad that I did. What online readers helped me understand was that I was rushing, in places, and that I had not always succeeded in setting up what was a very tricky scenario: Mr. Bennet dies immediately following the Netherfield ball, and Charles Bingley, recognizing his heart much earlier than he does in canon, determines to go to Jane, and, in so doing, ends up also giving Darcy his Hunsford moment.

I thought it would be fun to post a little breakdown here of that scene, and illustrate how the feedback helped me change it. First, here is the original scene:

November 30,1811

Breakfast at Darcy House, and Charles Bingley moping over the sideboard. Fitzwilliam Darcy surveyed his friend, and wondered if he had taken on an impossible task, in attempting to make him forget Jane Bennet.

It had been easy enough at first. With the eager assistance of Charles’s sister, Caroline Bingley, the flaws of Miss Bingley’s family had been noted, and to these flaws Darcy had added, gently, the lack of evidence that Miss Bennet held any romantic affections for the man who stood dangerously close to becoming her particular suitor.

Charles could rather easily be convinced into believing these things, but those things believed by Charles Bingley’s head were not so easily absorbed by his heart, and this accounted for his moping over the sideboard.

This could be rectified, though, Darcy thought. He abhorred the idea of conspiring over anything with Caroline Bingley, but he agreed with her that this was necessary, and that with a little distance from Jane Bingley, Charles would soon enough forget the young lady he had called his angel. In time, then, he might find another angel, one of more appropriate family and fortune.

Charles sat down with his plate, eventually, and the selections thereupon made it clear to Darcy that his friend’s appetite had not been much affected, which he took as a positive sign. Time, time was all that was needed to make everyone forget of the Bennets, and time would be afforded to them there, along with every distraction London had to offer.

Darcy’s plan seemed poised for success through breakfast, and the pot of coffee that followed it, taken leisurely in the parlour. Miller came in with the post, and there was a letter for Charles, which was studied silently for some time, before he attempted to comment upon it.

“My God,” Charles said, “Mr. Bennet has passed. There was some trouble with his heart, and apparently he succumbed to it.”

“Charles, are you quite sure?” Darcy asked, for his mind was racing as to how this affected Elizabeth Bennet, and as he had determined to think no more of any Bennets, this was most troubling.

“Sir William Lucas wrote me of it,” Charles said. “He has been assisting Mr. Phillips and Mr. Collins with the preparations for the funeral.”

“Those poor girls,” Darcy murmured, although he thought only, poor Elizabeth!

“I think the same, Darcy. I think that I should go to them — to Jane,” Charles said. “I know you said you do not think she has affection for me, but everything has changed, and I am not sure that she did not — “

“Charles, I beg you, do not act hastily. Miss Bennet will only be more vulnerable in her present situation, for losing all her security in life. I expect she would gladly accept anyone that came to her and seemed likely to secure her a home. Is that all you seek in a wife, is gratitude, for putting a roof above her head?”

It was at this moment that Fitzwilliam Darcy lost his particular friend, for Charles Bingley, not ever before having been required to seriously examine anything his life, did now examine his present situation, and his most recent courtship, and said, “Err — no. What I seek in a wife is a sweet, amiable temper, a pretty turn of countenance, and a respect of my thoughts, and all of these things I had in Miss Bennet, and you convinced me I should not pursue her because of her family, and because she was not attached to me.”

Darcy nodded, acknowledging that all his friend was true, and wondering what was to come next.

“I am going to go back to Netherfield,” Charles said. “I hope Miss Bennet is still able to see me in her present situation, and if she is, that she shall accept my hand in marriage. For even if such an exquisite creature is marrying me for my fortune, I will care not. I will enjoy my sweet wife, and even if she does not love me as I do her, I have no doubt of her faithfulness and continuing sweet temper.”

“This is precisely why we determined to separate you from Miss Bennet,” Darcy said, unthinkingly.

“You determined? You mean this was planned? All of these seemingly casual conversations about Miss Bennet was the result of some determination between you and my sister?”

“Yes, Charles, we thought it best for you.”

“Did no-one think perhaps I might be able to determine what is best for myself!” Charles shouted. “Do you all think I am a child, rather than the head of my household? A feeble-minded half-wit, that you must conspire around?”

“That is not at all what we thought. But a man in love may not think so clearly — “

“I am thinking clearly enough! I am thinking that if there is a woman in this world that I love, and I can secure her hand, there is absolutely no reason why I should not!”

“Charles, think of what you are saying. Think of what you are taking on — not just Miss Bennet, but the whole family. Are you prepared to have the mother and the silly sisters living under your roof at Netherfield?”

“I am not so selfish as you, Darcy. If I can ease Miss Bennet’s present distress by offering a home to her family, that will be pleasing to me, not abhorrent.”

“You think me selfish?”

“Yes, Darcy, I do, although if I must sum you up in one word, I suppose it would be pride, and I suppose I would say that you have spent so long in pride of the Darcy name, and presuming of what those who hold the Darcy name should do — and apparently what friends of those who hold the Darcy name must do — that you have never, since I have known you, acted in a manner as to pursue your own happiness. Now that I am presented with the choice, I have no interest in being like you. I will pursue my own happiness, and I will ask for Miss Bennet’s hand, and I do not care if you do not like it, you arrogant arse.”

And that had been the end. The words, meant to wound; the acquaintance, meant to end.  Darcy, left reeling amongst the words of his protégé, wondering what was it like to do what Charles had mentioned — what was it like to pursue his own happiness?

You can see at the beginning of this my natural tendency to use incomplete sentences, which can be used effectively, but not generally in the Austenesque genre. I fought this slightly while the story was eating my brain. Even more, my tendency towards present tense was continually emerging and needing to be fixed, in the early drafts. Seriously, I would go whole paragraphs and then realize I was in present tense, and needed to rewrite them!

Before I posted it online, I had begun to make some alterations to it, seeking to make it more believable that this was the Bingley we all know. I added in a little detail where Bingley slammed his coffee cup down, and spilled some of the coffee on the table, and, in Bingleyish fashion, stopped to mop up the spilt coffee before making his dramatic exit.

But for readers, this alone wasn’t enough. Bingley needed to be substantially motivated to break his friendship with Darcy, and to give Darcy the dressing-down that would substitute for Hunsford. He also needed to show himself as the precursor to the man who, later in the story, asks Darcy what he’s about, in courting Bingley’s widowed and very eligible (due to her inheritance of Longbourn) sister. It’s Bingley, after all, who’s become a husband and a father in the time that’s passed since their breach, not Darcy.

Based on the feedback, I made a number of alterations to the scene, particularly to get a few pokes in at Bingley, from Darcy, on his connections to trade. Needled on multiple topics, faced with a realization of his own heart, and, mopping up that spilt coffee, he finally felt realistic enough as Bingley, yet still with more of a spine than we are generally accustomed to, and able to do the job that needed to be done:

November 30, 1811

Charles Bingley’s countenance was not one formed for moping, and yet Bingley was doing this very thing as he stood over the sideboard and considered the breakfast selections. Darcy surveyed his friend and wondered if he had taken on an impossible task, in attempting to make Charles forget about Jane Bennet.

It had been easy enough at first. With the eager assistance of Caroline Bingley, the flaws of Miss Bennet’s family had been noted, and to these flaws Darcy had added, gently, the lack of evidence that Miss Bennet held any romantic affections for the man who stood dangerously close to becoming her particular suitor. Charles could be rather easily convinced into believing these things, but things believed by Charles Bingley’s head were not so easily absorbed by his heart, and this accounted for his moping over the sideboard.

This could be rectified, though, Darcy thought. He abhorred the idea of conspiring over anything, much less conspiring with Caroline Bingley, but he agreed with her that this was necessary, and that with a little distance from Jane Bennet, Charles would soon enough forget the young lady he had called his angel. In time, then, he might find another angel, one of more appropriate family and fortune.

Charles sat down with his plate, eventually, and the selections thereupon made it clear to Darcy that his friend’s appetite had not been much affected, which he took as a positive sign. Time, time was all that was needed to make everyone forget of the Bennets, and time would be afforded to them here, along with every distraction London had to offer.

“I had thought to attend the Claytons’s ball tonight,” Bingley said. “Do you intend to go?”

“The Claytons are not the greatest ton, Charles,” Darcy said, taking care not to note that this was so because they were still in trade, and Bingley was not so very far removed from it. The last thing he needed was for his friend to meet some pretty young tradesman’s daughter, so that Bingley’s vulnerable heart fell under the spell of someone even less suitable than Miss Bennet. “Why do we not go and dine at White’s, instead, and have a night of cards, after?”

“Yes, I suppose that would be better. I do not really think my spirits ready for much in the line of dancing, anyway.”

If Bingley was not in spirits for dancing, perhaps his heart was more severely affected than Darcy had thought. Still, his plan seemed poised for success through breakfast and the pot of coffee that followed it, taken leisurely in the drawing-room. Miller came in with the post, and there was a letter for Charles, which was studied silently for some time before he attempted to comment upon it.

“My God,” Charles said, “Mr. Bennet has passed. There was some trouble with his heart, and apparently he succumbed to it.”

“Charles, are you quite sure?” Darcy asked, for his mind was racing as to how this affected Elizabeth Bennet, and as he had determined to think no more of any Bennets, this was most troubling.

“Sir William Lucas wrote to me of it,” Charles said. “He has been assisting Mr. Phillips and Mr. Collins with the preparations for the funeral.”

“Those poor girls,” Darcy murmured, although he thought only, poor Elizabeth!

“I think the same, Darcy. I think I should go to them – to Miss Bennet,” Charles said. “I know you said you do not think she has affection for me, but everything has changed, and I am not sure that she did not – ”

“Charles, I beg you, do not act hastily. Miss Bennet will only be more vulnerable in her present situation, for losing all her security in life. I expect she would gladly accept anyone that came to her and seemed likely to secure her a home. Is that all you require in a wife – gratitude, for putting a roof above her head?”

“No – I do not have requirements for a wife. You may be as cold and logical as you wish about marriage, Darcy, but I have a heart, and Miss Bennet has moved it – oh, how she has moved it! You convinced me I should not pursue her because of her family, and because she was not attached to me, but I find it does not matter to me if she is not so attached to me as I am to her. I – I love her. I do not want to live without her.”

It was at this moment that Darcy understood he had lost Bingley. Before, when Charles had not understood the extent of his love, he might have been persuaded out of it. Now it was too late. His marriage to Jane Bennet could only be avoided if she would refuse him, and no young lady in her right mind could refuse such an offer at such a time.

“I am going to go back to Netherfield,” Charles said. “I am going to pay my condolences, and be of service to the family in any way that I am able, and when it is appropriate, I am going to ask for Miss Bennet’s hand. For if such an exquisite creature is marrying me for my fortune, I will care not. If she does not love me so much as I love her, then I will seek to earn her love.”

“This is precisely why we determined to separate you from Miss Bennet,” Darcy said, unthinkingly.

“You determined? You mean this was planned? All of these seemingly casual conversations about Miss Bennet were the result of some determination between you and my sister?”

“Yes, Charles, we thought it best for you.”

“Did no-one think perhaps I might be able to determine what is best for myself?” Charles shouted, growing a concerning shade of red in his countenance. “Do you all think I am a child, rather than the head of my household? A feeble-minded half-wit, that you must conspire around?”

“That is not at all what we thought. But a man in love may not think so clearly – ”

“I am thinking clearly enough! I am thinking that if there is a woman in this world that I love, and she is a gentleman’s daughter, and I can secure her hand, there is absolutely no reason why I should not!”

“Charles, think of what you are saying. Think of what you are taking on – not just Miss Bennet, but the whole family. Are you prepared to have the mother and the silly sisters living under your roof at Netherfield? Are you prepared to call on the aunt and uncle living in Cheapside?”

“I should not be ashamed of relations living in Cheapside when my own father lived the first half of his life within sight of his warehouses on the Tyne. You and my sisters may have conveniently forgotten he did not always reside in Scarborough, but I assure you, I have not,” Bingley said. “As for Mrs. Bennet and her daughters, I am not so selfish as you, Darcy. If I can ease Miss Bennet’s present distress by offering a home to her family, that will be pleasing to me, not abhorrent.”

“You think me selfish?” Darcy asked, prepared to present Charles with any number of arguments to the contrary. Yet each of his arguments seemed to dissipate as soon as they formed, and he listened to his friend with growing concern:

“Of course I do, although if I must sum you up in one word, I suppose it would be proud, and I suppose I would say you have spent so long in pride of the Darcy name, and presuming what those who hold the Darcy name must do – and apparently what friends of those who hold the Darcy name must do – that you have always acted selfishly, and you have always looked down on those you consider beneath you. You do not want me to marry Jane Bennet because it would reflect poorly on you to have a friend make such a marriage. I am already tainted by trade, and my taking a wife with any such connexions will prove too much an embarrassment to you. Because this must have nothing to do with my own happiness – it must all be about you, Darcy.”

“It was not – that is not why I discouraged the connexion,” Darcy said, stung by what Bingley had said, and wondering desperately how to explain himself.

“Oh, is it not? Perhaps it is not why you discouraged the connexion. Perhaps you could not bear to see me happy, while you wallow in your own misery. Yes – misery. You will spend your whole damn life worrying over maintaining your position in society, and you will never do anything to pursue your own happiness. Now that I am presented with the choice, I have no interest in being like you. I will pursue my own happiness, and I will ask for Miss Bennet’s hand, and I do not care if you do not like it, you arrogant arse.”

Charles set his coffee cup down with crashing violence, then, the remnants of his coffee splashing onto the tea table. Any other man would have strode out immediately, but Bingley took out his handkerchief, rapidly mopped up the spilt drops of coffee, then stood and walked out of the room, ending his acquaintance with Fitzwilliam Darcy. The man who had until now been his particular friend watched his exit in stunned silence, desperately trying to conjure something to say to make him return. As a man who did not make close friends easily, Darcy felt the deepest desperation over losing one, and as the result of his own actions. He could not bring himself to say he had been wrong, however. That might, he realised, be further evidence of his pride.

He began a study, then, examining his thoughts, words, and actions in the whole course of his life, but particularly since his father had died, searching for selfishness and pride. In shame, he found them in abundance, and he sat there, alone, considering how he had come to err so grievously, and how he could affect the changes in his character he now knew he needed to make. This was not the only thing he considered, however, for he could not help but wonder what it would be like to do what Charles had spoken of: what would it be like to pursue his own happiness?

So…what you can see between the earlier and the final scene is a change to a much richer and more detailed scene. I had known that Bingley needed to be the one to give Darcy his Hunsford moment, for that was always part of my plan. But the earlier scene is clearly a bridge to do that, meant to get me to the scenes I was more excited about writing, while the final scene was fully fleshed out and given equal weight and importance. Because it is important that Bingley does this, and it is a bit of a change, to have a Bingley with such a spine!

For those who are interested in reading Mistress, before we get to the giveaway, I should warn you that as the title indicates, there are mature scenes in this story. They are inherent to the storyline: Bingley succeeds, in the proposal he determines on, shortly following Mr. Bennet’s death; Darcy does not, and therefore finds himself, years later, courting a widowed Elizabeth who has sworn off marriage, and particularly the marriage bed, and needs to be convinced otherwise – on all fronts.

Now, it’s giveaway time! For those who followed the cover reveal on Just Jane 1813, I have one more prize package to give out, so the grand prize winner will receive a reader’s choice of ebook or paperback copy of Mistress, an audiobook of A Constant Love, and a Pemberley Gardens candle from Frostbeard Studios.

Grand prize: reader’s choice of paperback or ebook of Mistress, audiobook of A Constant Love, and a Pemberley Garden’s candle.

 

Two more winners will receive your choice of the ebook or paperback of Mistress. Leave a comment below by 11:59 PM EST on March 24, 2017 to enter.

And there will be many more opportunities to win on the upcoming blog tour, so I hope you’ll join me:

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65 Responses to Evolving “Mistress,” and a Giveaway

  1. I love Charles giving Darcy a proper set-down. He deserved it. This book looks like a very good read, even with all the high angst coming.
    Thanks for the giveaway. Congratulations on the book release.

  2. Oh, this sounds wonderful. I can hardly wait to read it. I have thrown my name into the pot and hope my name will be drawn. I lost my lucky rabbit’s foot. I’m not surprised, I mean, the rabbit lost it too. Just saying. Also, it’s winter so I don’t have a 4-leaf clover or a ladybug. I just can’t seem to win here. I don’t have the luck of the Irish. I mean, my people came from Scotland, and I don’t think the Scots are known to be particularly lucky. I had a horseshoe, but it fell off the wall and hit me in the head, so that won’t work. I imagine there are lucky words that can be said; however, I seem to have forgotten them. That may relate back to that horseshoe, I don’t know. They say that certain coins are lucky, but I cleaned out my coin stash when I got my specialty coffee this morning. I guess I’ll just have to throw myself on the mercy of the draw. Have a great launch.

Your thoughts are precious!