In September, I released my latest Pride and Prejudice re-imagining, Mr. Darcy Goes to War, and the novel has received a warm reception. One of the reasons may be that many readers have heard stories of World War II from their parents or grandparents. That was certainly my inspiration for writing the novel. Another is my love of history. In Darcy Goes to War, Elizabeth Bennet is a lorry driver, and Jane works as a secretary for her magistrate father. While Kitty and Lydia work in a uniform factory, Mary is firing an ack-ack gun in Malta. I chose this particular assignment for Mary because when my husband and I were in England in 1982, we met a couple who had lived through the war years. Ironically, while the woman’s then boyfriend was serving in the military in Iceland and never fired a shot, his future wife was on Malta firing an ack-ack gun. Now their story lives on.
According to BBC History, “In the spring of 1941, every woman in Britain aged 18-60 had to be registered for war work, and their family occupations were recorded. Each was interviewed and required to choose from a range of jobs… In December 1941, the National Service Act #2 made the conscription of women legal. At first, only single women aged 20-30 were called up, but by mid-1943, almost 90 per cent of single women and 80 per cent of married women were employed in essential work for the war effort. The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was formed in 1938. Its initial plan was to recruit 25,000 female volunteers for driving, clerical and general duties. Continue reading
I’m travelling through England as I write this, finding inspiration and learning lots of useful information for future books. I now know how to recognize coaching inns, market towns, moors, and much more; I understand better about parsons and parsonages and why Mr. Collins’ first duty was to collect tithes. I can now put myself mentally in the correct landscape. I’ve seen fellow authors Jane Odiwe and Juliet Archer, and talked plot for hours with two as-yet-unpublished writers in the Austen-inspired novel field. I’ve managed to stay one step ahead of the floods, but have dealt with enough deluges to make me think I’m re-enacting Mr. Darcy’s Refuge. I’ve had far too many adventures to cover in one blog post, so I’m going to focus on my most recent adventure.
My friend and I have been staying in various inexpensive B&Bs around the country, but we decided to have one big splurge and spend two nights at Middlethorpe Hall, a 1699 country house in York run by the National Trust as a hotel, with all profits going to the National Trust. It’s been restored to the appearance of a 18th century manor, furnished with antiques and including extensive gardens. I was hoping to soak up some good atmosphere for my new book by spending a couple of days in surroundings where Darcy would have felt at home. Continue reading
Charles Bingley had never experienced such nervous anticipation in his life. Today was the day. No excuses. No delays. Today, he was going to ask Miss Jane Bennet to be his wife. He’d been looking into the mirror rehearsing what to say when James, his valet, interrupted him.
“Are you ready to dress for the day, Mr. Bingley?” the older man inquired politely as he entered the room.
Bingley’s heart did a wild dance. Was he ready?
“I would like to look my very best today,” he said nervously running a hand through his unruly hair.
James raised an eyebrow. “I do not believe, sir, that I have ever allowed you to leave your dressing room on any day looking any thing less than your very best.”
That brought a smile to Bingley’s lips and some of his nervousness vanished. “Of course, you are completely correct. I trust your good taste implicitly. Now what have you planned for me today?”
When Bingley finally stood before the mirror to examine himself, he was very pleased with what he saw. Then James held out his pocket watch, brushed the back of his coat one more time, and pronounced him ready. Just as Bingley was almost to the door, the valet rushed after him. Continue reading