Stranger Danger in Austen + Giveaway

Stranger Danger in Austen + Giveaway

 

I’m still mulling over title suggestions from my last post, but my computer has returned nicely refurbished and I’ve been busy with editing my next release, A Sense of Obligation!

While considering which excerpt to choose for this post, I was struck with the idea of how often the stranger is the villain in Jane Austen’s books. (I’m less familiar with Mansfield Park and Persuasion, so I’m skipping those.)

"Marianne's preserver," John Willoughby. He just saw Marianne collapsed in a field with a sprained ankle and helped her home in a rain storm. Marianne's already naming their babies by this point.
“Marianne’s preserver,” John Willoughby. He just saw Marianne collapsed in a field with a sprained ankle and helped her home in a rain storm. Marianne’s already naming their babies by this point.

The Dashwood ladies are new to the Barton Cottage neighborhood and soon meet Mr. Willoughby, who is only visiting his aunt. While other characters are acquainted with him, he comes to the area only once a year and only for a few weeks. He has a keen interest in appearing everything honorable and charming so near his aunt and can wear that mask easily enough for a few days. By the time Colonel Brandon learns more of Willoughby’s character, through his ward who was impregnated and abandoned by Willoughby, the man is gone and no one is quite sure if Marianne is engaged to him or not.

Wickham being introduced to the Bennet girls. Do you hear the giggles and see the swooning? "charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address."
Wickham being introduced to the Bennet girls. Do you hear the giggles and see the swooning? “His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.”

When Wickham arrives in Meryton, most of the area is immediately smitten with him. Darcy tells Elizabeth in his letter to her that “detection could not be in your power.” In this scenario, the area welcomes Wickham and the other members of the militia with open arms simply because of their reputation. However, Wickham is new to the Regiment, and only Denny knew him before. By the time Wickham elopes with Lydia, Colonel Forster is saying he no longer thinks well of Wickham, and it is known he left Meryton in debt. While Elizabeth and the Gardiners are in Lambton, they do inquire about Wickham and learn he left the area with debts, paid for by Darcy, as well. If only they had been more cautious to accept someone who was so firmly a stranger to them and even his peers, the story might have been quite different.

Yes, it really looks like he's trying to tell her that he's not interested in her and is engaged to another woman here. Really.
Yes, it really looks like he’s trying to tell her that he’s not interested in her and is engaged to another woman here. Really.

Highbury also quickly accepts Frank Churchill, absent son of the long time resident, Mr. Weston. But what do the Westons know about Frank? He was raised by his mother’s relatives, and the beginning of the book includes many times of Frank’s near arrival but sudden change of plans. While Frank didn’t set out to injure anyone, he toyed with Emma’s feelings to mask his own for Jane Fairfax. The potential harm of a stranger is even more clear in this novel as Frank is set up against Mr. Knightley, Emma’s long time friend and neighbor.

Mrs. Thorpe just "happened" to notice Mrs. Allen, her old school friend from over 20 years ago. Isabella "just happens" to know Catherine's brother James and "just happens" to have no other friends in this area, although she has frequently stayed in Bath, worth more admiration than Catherine- who is nearly invisible to even her own family.
Mrs. Thorpe just “happened” to notice Mrs. Allen, her old school friend from over 20 years ago. Isabella “just happens” to know Catherine’s brother James and “just happens” to have no other friends in this area, although she has frequently stayed in Bath, worth more admiration than Catherine- who is nearly invisible to even her own family.

Catherine Morland sees no reason to question Isabella Thorpe’s immediate interest in her. She is just as trusting of the Tilneys…until she thinks General Tilney may have murdered his wife. She soon learns he’s not that evil, but she also learns she was right to trust her instinct with him all along- he is heartless. Indeed, Mrs. Morland says this once Catherine returns home: “This has been a strange acquaintance,” observed Mrs. Morland, as the letter was finished; “soon made and soon ended. I am sorry it happens so, for Mrs. Allen thought them very pretty kind of young people; and you were sadly out of luck too in your Isabella. Ah! Poor James! Well, we must live and learn; and the next new friends you make I hope will be better worth keeping.”

Sense Obligation Fairbanks

From Austen’s frequent use of it and even Mrs. Morland’s general statement, it seems it was not very irregular to find out too late that your new acquaintance lacks character. With that in mind, I give you an excerpt from A Sense of Obligation. Darcy compromised Elizabeth during her stay at Netherfield. They quickly married but are still getting to know one another and in many ways are still strangers to one another. They have not yet established trust. The following scene happens the day after their wedding. Darcy had business to deal with, and Elizabeth decided to look over the household accounts.

Elizabeth was so engrossed in her findings that she hardly noticed her luncheon arrive and barely touched it.

Another two hours passed when her husband’s words interrupted her musings. “Elizabeth, are you well?”

She gasped, alarmed that he would find her looking at these particular accounts. She jumped from her chair and saw him eyeing the tray of food she had not eaten. “Oh, I was distracted.”

His eyes alit on the books she had left opened, noting the colour of their bindings. “I see.”

She saw his jaw begin to tense.

He strode to shut the door. “Can you please explain why you are reviewing my personal accounts?”

He was quite angry. She feared he believed she had only been playing a part and was a fortune hunter desperate for information on his wealth. Her heart squeezed at the thought of losing his affections.

Elizabeth stood still for a minute. Her eyes drifted to the clock, and she realised she was late dressing for dinner. He arrived home later than expected. She looked at him carefully, and despite his angry visage, there was a vulnerable expression of hurt, which it did not surprise her to see as she had some understanding of his feelings for her and given what she found in the books. He appeared exceptionally weary, as a day of business might do to a man, and she wondered if he had taken any nourishment the entire day. She remembered how her Aunt Gardiner handled similar situations with her uncle.

“I will gladly explain my mistake, sir. But can I order tea for you while we talk? In the meantime, allow me to suggest the lemon tarts; I believe you have a preference for them.”

“Elizabeth, now is hardly the time to take tea!”

“Yes, but I believe you have not eaten all day, and as you see, neither have I. We might speak with more civility if our hunger is assuaged.”

“We have dinner in an hour.”

“Just a few restorative bites. It will go to waste otherwise, and I have spent the entire day reviewing the accounts; I know Darcy House is not frivolous.”

“Very well.” He was curt and dubious.

She called for tea, and Darcy obliged her by eating the tarts. She could scarcely say for Darcy, but for herself, she felt better after a few biscuits.

“There, now I believe we are in a position to speak rationally.” Darcy was resolutely silent. “I spent several hours with Mrs. Sparks this morning going over the household accounts since you became the master.”

“You managed it all in one day?”

“Less than one day. You are such a creature of habit; hardly anything ever changed. You certainly do not need a wife to run your house. Mrs. Sparks is exceptionally efficient and organised.

“As she was leaving, I asked where the older ledgers were. I wanted to leaf through those from your mother’s time, to see the differences when the family entertained more. She never told me your personal accounts were on the same shelf. I grabbed several by accident.”

Darcy made a gruff sigh.

“After skimming the years your mother was mistress, I saw you were correct; they did not entertain much. I was curious and sought the years when just you and your father lived here. I noticed that after you were around age fifteen or so, there were some odd entries. It seemed over the course of a few years, several maids were let go of a sudden, and there was a strange notation next to a few of them.” Elizabeth saw Darcy’s jaw tighten further.

“I did not go looking for your personal accounts, sir, but the first page I opened to had the same symbol as in the house accounts and was for a shocking sum of nearly three thousand pounds. You can imagine what it would look like.”

Giveaway!!

I’m giving away 2 ebook copies of A Sense of Obligation. Please comment below to be entered. Entries must be in by Friday, July 31 11:59 EST.

For more giveaway chances from me and other amazing Austenesque writers check out my book launch party on Facebook on July 25.

Edit: I fixed the link!

37 Responses to Stranger Danger in Austen + Giveaway

  1. I did not like missing your launch party. I am sure it was a success! I can live without internet in general but sometimes is annoying. Now I am at the library because it has wi-fi and air-con!!
    I have loved the excerpt, mainly the part “Her heart squeezed at the thought of losing his affections”. It is so lovely!!
    I would love to be on this giveaway!! 🙂

  2. I have all of your other books and am looking forward to reading this one too. From the excerpt, it will be loving as ever(when Darcy gets the chance to explain). Thanks for the chance to win your new book.

  3. Love the excerpt.I agree that the villian of the piece is Wickham and I only hope he gets his comeuppance. I like the forced marriage stories (well to be honest I like them to get married however it happens!!!!) I have this on my wish list but would be delighted to win a copy so thanks for the opportunity

  4. I love your explanation of Jane’s ‘Stranger Danger’ lessons. This is so intiguing. Poor Lizzy and Darcy. An excellent explanation. Now for the mark…I wonder if it has anything to do with Wickham. Your book is on my very long TBR, Rose, so please do not enter me in the give away.

  5. I have been reading a lot of books with compromise situations recently. This sounds interesting. I will definitely buy and read it unless I am able to win a copy.

  6. I believe both Mansfield Park and Persuasion continue the “stranger danger” trend. Henry and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, and Sir Walter’s heir, Mr. Elliot, in Persuasion (“They had not a fault to find in him.”). Definitely gives you something to consider…

    Thank you for the chance to win!

    • I had thought so as well but prefer to not feign more intelligence than I have or base my knowledge simply off films and incomplete readings. I could do a follow up story about people who had known others for some time and were betrayed, though. Darcy and his father knew Wickham for a long time, for instance.

      Good luck!

  7. Congratulations on your new release, Rose. If I’m not wrong, it’s your fifth book. The excerpt you included is intriguing. I’m guessing it’s a certain childhood friend of Darcy who is the cause of the 3,000 pounds. The problem is does Elizabeth know about his former friend’s history? If she doesn’t know, this might look bad for Darcy.

    • Yes, book five in just over a year! No wonder I’m tired! It does look pretty bad. As she points out just before their wedding out of their 2 week engagement they met each other 4 times, so room for lots of misunderstandings!

  8. ooohhhh!! I can guess, but would much rather read more! Wonderful (teaser) excerpt. Well chosen. Congratulation on your release and thank you for the giveaway!

  9. I enjoyed the excerpt as well! I am also sure that Wickham was responsible for the maids’ dismissal, not our dear Darcy.

    • I have a bit of a reputation amongst my friends for pushing the limits on some things. I have a short story where Elizabeth is dead for most of it, after all. But I do promise to never write a Darcy who would dally with the maids. Good luck!

  10. I thought the same thing as some of the other posters…methinks this has more to do with a certain son of a steward than it does anything Darcy related. LOL I love that she went back to how Aunt Gardiner handled Uncle Gardiner. 🙂

    • LOL. Well put! Well, I don’t know that Mrs. Bennet would necessarily be the right person to emulate there. That bit was actually inspired be me turning into a bit of a monster during a big writing session and having suddenly realized i was snappy because I hadn’t eaten in 9 hours. There’s a meme I’ve seen, “I’m sorry for the unkind words I said out of hunger.” True for me!

  11. Quoting from your post: From Austen’s frequent use of it and even Mrs. Morland’s general statement, it seems it was not very irregular to find out too late that your new acquaintance lacks character. I think that still happens today! 🙂

    Loved the excerpt from you new book. I am afraid I would agree with Elizabeth that it does not look good for our dear boy! Can he explain? I guess we will have to wait to find out. Great post!

  12. Well nearly 3,000 pounds reminds me of a certain Officer who was the stranger in Meryton that made mischief on the locals. Humm… I love this excerpt and hope you have great success with your next publication. Jen

  13. Great excerpt. You could feel the tension. Elizabeth handled herself very well. Thanks for the givevaway!

  14. Beware of strangers! We are all taught that from an early age; but if the stranger is handsome/beautiful we very often assume their character must be the same… being wrong more often than not. I would love to win your book!

    • Indeed! It’s a fine line between being interested in strangers and friendly enough to make a new friend and being entirely taken in. I wonder if these victims would be more cautious in the future. Darcy certainly seem to be. Good luck!

Your thoughts are precious!