Every time a new movie adaptation of one of Austen’s novels comes out, I am inspired to re-read the novel before watching the movie. This time, with the new 2020 movie adaptation of Emma out in the theatres, I decided to visit the book again. I admit I have always read Emma because of Mr. Knightly. I used to find Emma too immature and I always thought Mr. Knightly was too much for her. Not only because of the age difference but also because of how lacking her understanding was comparing to his.
I think part of my harsh judgement of Emma was that I compared her to Elizabeth and, well, there is no comparison there. But this time around, I decided not to compare Emma with anyone and just get to know her. And I actually enjoyed reading her. I think I have a better appreciation for the young woman Austen was trying to portray.
I also began to appreciate why Mr. Knightly would be attracted to Emma. He admired her for her open and lively disposition. In fact, he as much as admits his preference for Emma when he talks about Miss Fairfax.
“There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person.”
Despite their huge age difference, which still bothers me, I now think his good sense and her lively temperament made them a good match.
In my third novel, To Desire and Deserve, my hero and heroine, are also opposites in temperament. Henrietta is young, spoiled and uninhibited. Lord Carlisle, on the other hand, is a reserved gentleman, whose thoughts and sentiments are not easy to understand. Though their story is very different from Mr. Knightly and Emma’s, they are also a case of opposites’ attraction. Below is an excerpt from the book, wherein Henrietta and her cousin discuss Lord Carlisle, and toward the end of the excerpt, you get to see His Lordship as well. Keep in mind, I am currently re-writing parts of this novel and it has yet to undergo serious editing. So, if you notice errors, I apologize in advance. Hope you enjoy the excerpt!
Henrietta found Lord Carlisle to be an enigma. He was full of contradictions, and she simply could not work him out. He was a strong man with impressive physique and an excellent aptitude for sports. He spent a great deal of time outdoors, riding and hunting with the other gentlemen. And yet, he was also a thinking man, as Henrietta had seen him numerous times, reading in the library and had heard him discuss philosophy with her uncle. He was a quiet gentleman, and yet, his eyes, when she dared to gaze into them, bespoke of disquiet and unease. He was not shy, and yet, he seemed to prefer being alone. And when in company, he often remained quiet, listening to others’ conversations. She had tried to engage him in conversation a few times, and indeed he had been most charming. But she had soon realized that though he asked her many questions and seemed quite interested to know about her, he never volunteered any information about himself and always managed, quite masterfully, to turn the conversation in directions that did not include him.
She found the evasive gentleman quite intriguing, and would have been interested in him had she not noticed the strange exchange between the gentleman and Lady Emilia. She had watched the couple carefully during the next few days that followed and she was convinced that though they barely spoke and hardly looked at each other, they were not indifferent either. There was something there, but she could not quite understand it.
“My mother has every intention of having Lord Carlisle for a son in-law,” Lady Suzanna informed Henrietta one afternoon, as the cousins walked outside of the manor.
“I suspected that much.” Lady Henrietta giggled. “Do you think Marian agrees with your mother’s choice for her?”
Lady Suzanna laughed.
“Poor Marian!” She shook her head. “I do not think she has a say in the matter. Once my mother has an idea, there is no stopping her, I am afraid. My mother thinks she is the best judge when it comes to choosing husbands for her daughters. And we have to submit to her superior judgment.”
“But she did not choose Lord Somme for you,” Lady Henrietta countered. “You fell in love with him.”
“That is true. But it was my mother’s brilliant decision to invite him to Graden Hall. So, you see? She thinks she is to be congratulated for my happiness. And I will never say anything to the contrary.”
“That is very sensible of you. But perhaps Marian will fall in love with Lord Carlisle too. And in that case, your mother would have been correct in her decision again.”
“Marian and Lord Carlisle?” Lady Suzanna raised both eyebrows in shock. “Impossible.”
“Why ever not? He is a fine man.”
“Oh, indeed he is,” Lady Suzanna smiled, its meaning lost on her cousin.
“And Marian is beautiful and not at all spoiled like us,” Henrietta continued.
“We are not spoiled,” Lady Suzanna objected playfully.
Henrietta smiled. “My dear Suzanna, you and I both know very well that we are quite irreparably spoiled.”
Lady Suzanna laughed and nodded. “Very well.” She conceded. “But I still contend that Marian and Lord Carlisle will never do. She is too much in awe of him. Marian was pleased with him when he first arrived. He is a handsome man, and naturally any unattached, young lady would find him interesting.”
“Naturally,” Henrietta laughed sardonically.
“Come now, cousin,” Lady Suzanna insisted. “You cannot deny that the gentleman is quite a prize.”
Henrietta shrugged, not willing to concede.
“But he is too complicated for Marian,” Lady Suzanna said thoughtfully. “Marian is a quiet girl. She is lovely and kind, but she is not adventurous. She will bore him to death. I think Marian is a little afraid of him already.”
Henrietta laughed. “What do you mean? What is there to be afraid of?”
“She is afraid of disappointing him. I have watched them together. He asks her a question and she goes tongue-tied or says something utterly stupid. And he tries to remain polite, but I can see boredom in his eyes. No, they will never do for one another.”
“That is too bad. Your mother will be disappointed.”
“Oh, never mind my mother. She is not a good matchmaker despite her belief in the contrary. I, on the other hand, have a much better idea.”
“Oh dear!” Henrietta laughed. “What have you done, cousin?”
“I have got the perfect match for Lord Carlisle,” Lady Suzanna smiled mischievously.
“I do hope you are not thinking of Claire, because she is head over ears in love with Col. Fitzwilliam, and I fully expect him to declare himself very soon.” “I am not thinking of Claire. She will not do for Lord Carlisle either. And you have already told me about Col. Fitzwilliam, so I would never try to match her with another gentleman. No, I am thinking of you.”
“Of me?” Henrietta asked with no little shock.
“Yes, you. I think Lord Carlisle is the best gentleman for you.”
“Whatever gave you that notion?” Henrietta asked, blushing despite herself.
“Well,” Lady Suzanna said excitedly. “Let us see now. He is very handsome. He has both money and connections. Need I remind you that he will be the Duke of Carlisle one day?”
“My dear Suzanna,” Henrietta laughed. “Those are all excellent features, if I wanted to choose a husband simply to be married. But you know that is not what I desire. I am very well taken care of. I have money and connections. I have no worries in that regard. I do not need a husband to be happy.”
“But do you not want to be marry?” Lady Suzanna asked.
“Of course, I do. But not to just any man.”
“Lord Carlisle is not just any man, Henrietta.” Lady Suzanna reminded her cousin.
“I know that,” Henrietta drawled. “He is the future Duke of Carlisle.”
“You are being ridiculous. And quite unfair. That is not his only advantage. He is a very handsome man. He is tall and strong and …”
“He is very attractive,” Henrietta conceded and shook her head at her cousin’s words.
“He is well spoken and well informed.” Lady Suzanna insisted. “He is interesting and adventurous. Are these not qualities you have always looked for?”
“I grant you, he is not at all boring.”
“Oh, you are incorrigible.” Lady Suzanna shook her head. “You are not willing to admit it, but I know you like him. I have been watching you these last few days. You two are so well suited. I grant you, he is not as lively as you are. But he is intriguing. He has travelled the world. He has an excellent understanding and he even enjoys your sense of humor. He smiles every time you make one of your sarcastic comments. Last night at dinner, for instance, his lips were twitching the entire time you were making your sardonic comments about the House of Lords.”
“You seem to have been paying him a lot of attention, Suzanna.” Henrietta joked. “Does Lord Somme know how highly you think of his friend?”
“Do not be ridiculous.” Lady Suzanna waved her hands in exasperation. “Adam has nothing but high praises for his friend. He says he is the best of men. And he agrees with me that you two are very well suited.”
“He agrees?” Henrietta blushed anew “Suzanna! You have been discussing me with Lord Somme? How can you be so foolish?”
“I discuss everything with Adam.” Lady Suzanna shrugged. “We were discussing you and Lord Carlisle.”
“There is nothing between us to be discussed.”
“Nothing yet,” Lady Suzanna said, her eyes dancing with humor. “But Adam and I think it a very great thing if you and Lord Carlisle were to fall in love. “My foolish cousin,” Lady Henrietta shook her head and tried to regain her mirth. “Before you go ahead and plan my wedding with the gentleman, perhaps you ought to make certain that his attentions are not already engaged elsewhere.”
“What do you mean?”
“I do not think Lord Carlisle is unattached as you believe him to be,” Henrietta replied. “I have noticed something…something quite peculiar between his lordship and Lady Emilia. I would have thought them in love … but they do not resemble a couple in love. I cannot quite explain it… there is strain and sadness between them and …I do not know… I do not believe Lord Carlisle is a free man.”
“You are as observant as ever.” Lady Suzanna smiled at her cousin. “But you are perhaps reading too much in to it. There is a history between Lord Carlisle and Emilia. But not quite as romantic as one would think.”
“Tell me,” Lady Henrietta said, not able to hide her interest.
“As you know, Adam and Lord Carlisle have been friends for years. The two went to school together. But Lord Carlisle never met Emilia until he returned from school and found her staying at Carlisle Castle as a guest. You see, Emilia and Lady Diana are cousins and quite close.”
“Who is Lady Diana?” Henrietta asked.
“Lady Diana is Lord Carlisle’s sister in-law. She was married to Lord Roland, Lord Carlisle’s elder brother. Unfortunately, Lord Roland died three years ago. That is how Lord Carlisle has become heir apparent to Carlisle.”
“Did they fall in love then?” Lady Henrietta asked enthusiastically. “When Lord Carlisle returned from school and found Lady Emilia there? Is that when they fell in love? Why did they not marry? Was she promised to another gentleman? Was he refused on account of being the second son? It would be too sad if that was the case.”
“Will you allow me to speak?” Lady Suzanna said, rolling her eyes at her cousin’s excitement.
Lady Henrietta giggled and nodded for her cousin to continue.
“They did fall in love. And he asked for, and was granted, permission to court her. But unfortunately they never became engaged and never married.”
“But why not?” Henrietta asked.
Lady Suzanna shrugged. “Lord Carlisle left England and did not return until recently.”
“I do not know. Adam would not tell me the reason. But I am certain he knows the reason very well. According to him, Lord Carlisle was not to blame for what happened.”
“But how is he not to blame?” Henrietta asked, unconvinced. “He is the one who left. He broke Lady Emilia’s heart.”
“I do not know the particulars, but Adam’s friendship with Lord Carlisle has not suffered due to this event, which suggests that Lord Carlisle could not have been the blackguard you suppose him to be.”
“I do not understand,” Henrietta said, her brows drawing together in concentration. “Why would Lord Carlisle leave the woman he professed love to behind? Why would he leave his home, his family and his country? This is all very strange.”
Lady Suzanna smiled. “Perhaps you can uncover the truth.”
“I know you find this whole affair entertaining, but I beg you, do not try to bring us together. I am convinced that we are not well suited at all. And even if we were suited, and even if I did find him intriguing, knowing what I know about him and his … er… history with another lady, who I remind you, will be your sister soon, I could never… that is… I cannot… please, Suzanna, let this crazy notion of yours go.”
“Whatever his history with my future sister may be, he is not married to her. He is not engaged to her. And neither of them seem to be happy to be in each other’s company.”
“That does not imply that he is free to be with another lady.”
“It also does not imply that he cannot be happy with another lady.” Lady Suzanna countered. “I think you, my dearest cousin, are afraid. I know you so well. Even better than your sister knows you. You are afraid of developing feelings for a gentleman. That is why you always manage to find something wrong with the gentlemen you meet. And then you convince yourself that you have grown bored with them.”
“What nonsense!” Henrietta looked away.
“It is not nonsense, and you know it. You are doing the same with Lord Carlisle. You find him intriguing and since you cannot find fault with him, you are using his history with Emilia as an excuse to convince yourself that he is not the one for you.”
“Believe me, cousin,” Henrietta said with practiced nonchalance. “I can find many faults with Lord Carlisle, none of which have to do with his history with Lady Emilia.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a rather loud thunder and drops of rain that followed almost immediately.
“Oh dear!” Lady Suzanna exclaimed. “We have walked too far from the house. We cannot walk back in this rain.”
“Let us take shelter under those trees.” Henrietta pointed at a group of trees some distance away from where they stood, and grabbing her cousin’s hand, began running.
“Not so fast, Henrietta. You know I can never run as fast as you do. Let go of my hand.”
“Come on,” Henrietta laughed, and letting go of her cousin’s hand, ran faster. “Try to keep up, Suzanna.”
Unfortunately, Lady Suzanna lacked her cousin’s agility and she tripped and fell on the ground.
“Oh no!” Henrietta ran back to her cousin. “Are you alright?”
“Ahh…” Lady Suzanna cried in pain. “Do not move me. I think I have injured my ankle.”
“Can you stand on your other foot?” Henrietta encouraged. “Lean on me, I will carry you to the tree.”
“Do not be ridiculous, Henrietta,” Lady Suzanna said, pushing her cousin’s hand away. “You cannot carry me. You must go and get help.”
“I cannot leave you out here exposed to the elements. Come. You know I am strong.”
“But I am not.” Lady Suzanna refused. “I cannot move. It hurts too much.”
“Come on, Suzanna…” Henrietta stopped as she heard the sound of approaching hooves.
Both ladies turned toward the sound and saw Lord Somme and Lord Carlisle riding toward them at a fast pace.
“What happened?” Lord Somme asked as he jumped down his horse and ran toward his intended. “Are you hurt?”
“I am so glad you are here.” Lady Suzanna held out her hand for him. “I fell. I must have tripped on something.”
“Do not worry, dearest,” Lord Somme said as he kneeled before her. “I shall take care of you. Let me see your ankle.”
Lord Carlisle who had also jumped down from his horse came to stand beside Henrietta.
“Are you alright?” He asked her.
“Yes.” Henrietta nodded. “We were running to take shelter under the trees, but Suzanna lost her balance and fell.”
He took off his great coat and wrapped it around Henrietta’s body. “You are shivering,” He said, his brows drawn together. “You must return to the house immediately.”
Without waiting for Henrietta’s response, Lord Carlisle took command of the situation. “Adam,” He said, demanding his friend’s attention. “You must take Lady Suzanna back to the house before she catches a chill. I will unsaddle your horse.”
It did not take Lord Carlisle above a minute to unsaddle Lord Somme’s horse. Lord Somme scooped his fiancée up in his arms and with Lord Carlisle’s help, placed her on his horse. He mounted the horse as well and rode away from them toward the manor.
It was only as she watched Lord Somme ride away with his fiancé that Henrietta realized she was left alone with Lord Carlisle. His Lordship was quickly unsaddling his own horse.
“My lord.” Henrietta tried to speak, her voice barely audible against the sound of the rain and the thunder that seemed to be coming their way. “I believe I shall take refuge under those trees until a horse is sent for me.”
Lord Carlisle did not look up from his task. “You will ride back to the house with me.” He informed her as though it was the most commonplace thing to do.
“I cannot do that, sir.” Henrietta shook her head, pulling his coat tighter around herself.
“Do not worry.” He said as he finally removed the saddle from the horse and placed it on the ground. “I will not let you fall.”
“I am not afraid of falling, sir,” Henrietta said, taking a step away from him. “It is… it is not appropriate for us to ride …on the same horse…”
“You are wet through.” He interrupted abruptly as he walked toward her, “and you will catch your death if you stand out here any longer. My immediate concern is your wellbeing. Forgive me if I do not care about proprieties at this moment.”
Under normal circumstances, Henrietta would not have been impressed by such highhandedness. She would have delivered a cutting set down and walked away from the gentleman. But to her shock and dismay, she did not say anything. She allowed him to take her elbow, walk her to his horse, place his large hands around her waist and lift her up, placing her on the horse with such ease as though she weighed nothing at all. He mounted the horse, and Henrietta blushed immediately, feeling his body against hers.
He held the reins with one arm while his other arm wrapped around her, holding her firmly atop the horse and pressed against himself. Henrietta would have objected to his impertinence, had it not been for the fact that she, herself, clutched to the said arm as soon as his lordship brought his horse to a gallop. She was keenly aware of his masculinity, his strong arms and the warmth that emanated from his body. Despite the harsh elements, she felt warm and safe with him, and when they arrived at the house, and she was helped down by awaiting footmen and ushered inside by her concerned mother and sister, she felt the absence of his warmth keenly.