Happy summer to everyone! Can you believe it has finally arrived? Here in the mid-Atlantic area of the U.S. the warm weather is most welcome after an extremely rainy spring! I hope your summer is just as pleasant so far.
And of course, what’s a cover reveal and an excerpt without a giveaway? If you comment on this page, you will be entered into a drawing to receive either an ebook version or a paperback version of the book! Five winners will be chosen. Those who pick an ebook will receive their copy as soon as it is published on or about July 5th; those who choose a paperback version will have to wait a few weeks. You need to leave a comment by 6PM EST on Thursday, June 28th, in order to be eligible to win.
The preview below is the first chapter of An Unexpected Turn of Events, and I think it sums up the feel of the story quite well. This story, the third in my Longbourn Unexpected series, is set ten years after the events in Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit and the beginning of Love’s Fool: The Taming of Lydia Bennet. We will get to see Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, Bingley and all the other family members we have come to know and love. Good luck to everyone, and I hope you enjoy this little preview!
The very thing Mrs. Bennet had spent most of her adult years avoiding finally came true, but in a most unexpected form. Mr. Bennet had the unforeseen good fortune of outliving his wife.
In the end, her nerves, which had long been Mr. Bennet’s good friends, became her downfall as she succumbed to an apoplectic fit.
None of her children were at home to see the sad event. Jane was with her Mr. Bingley at Vinings and came rushing to her father’s side with appropriate speed, accompanied by her husband; Elizabeth came with Darcy at the same time. Mrs. Bennet had certainly chosen a convenient time to die from their standpoint, since the Darcys had been visiting the Bingleys at their home, and so the sad announcement could be made with great expediency in their case.
It was nearly as convenient for Kitty and her Mr. Masterson, at their small estate, Hazelton. Mary was with Kitty when the special messenger made his announcement, and for a full minute even Mary could think of no comforting platitudes to offer. They stood together in shock, and then Kitty began wailing, Mr. Masterson began directing the servants to pack at once, and Mary resumed her seat at the tea table, determined that it would be a waste to lose perfectly good scones even at a time like this. She did, however, pause for a moment to offer a private prayer for the repose of her mother’s soul. Afterwards, she packed.
Lydia, influenced by her military husband, had the most practical approach. The messenger had not long been at Godfrey House when he was dispatched back to Longbourn with a business-like missive. Did Mr. Bennet want them to come at once? If he did, how did he plan to house his five daughters, their four husbands, the various children, and all their servants? Would it be best if they planned on taking rooms at the inn in Meryton, or did Aunt Phillips perhaps have accommodations for some of them? Had he had time yet to arrange for poor Mrs. Bennet’s services? Please reply at once, she said, so that they could make the necessary arrangements.
No children, Mr. Bennet said by quick reply. He wanted none of the grandchildren present to aggravate his own nerves at such a time. Arrangements had already been made and the services would be carried out as soon as all of Mrs. Bennet’s five daughters could be present. As for accommodations, he really did not care where they stayed so long as they stayed out of his way. He told them to make whatever arrangements pleased themselves. The said daughters made their way to Longbourn with all appropriate speed, accompanied by their appropriately supportive husbands, and services were carried out in due course.
Mr. Collins and his wife Charlotte were present at the services. Mr. Collins would lose no opportunity to comfort where comfort was not wanted or needed, and he prevailed on his newly bereaved cousin tediously, until Mrs. Fret threatened him with bodily harm if he said another word. Collins was, to be honest, slightly disappointed. It was the duty of Mr. Bennet to predecease his wife, was it not? Had history followed its divine order, Mr. Bennet would have died first and he himself would now be in de facto possession of Longbourn. Instead it looked like he would have to keep on waiting for what should have rightfully been his already. He would return to Hunsford with ideas for multiple sermons on the vengeance of a divine being.
Mr. and Mrs. Phillips were present, along with Mrs. Gardiner, who was now a widow herself. She comforted her nieces as best she could and was comforted by them in return. Mrs. Phillips comforted herself by looking at the well-to-do husbands of her nieces and imagining the pin money they all enjoyed, and wondering how generously they shared their wealth.
It was a successful funeral, if such functions can be measured as successful or not. The minister spoke with touching eloquence on the life of Fanny Bennet and afterwards, her friends and relatives spoke movingly of how much they would miss her. She had been, they all said, a most devoted and attentive neighbor, eager to participate in the life of the community, concerned for the good marriages of her daughters (in which she had succeeded marvelously in four out of five cases), and a steady and loyal companion to her husband to the end. In other words, the usual kinds of falsehoods were told and accepted without question at Fanny Bennet’s funeral.
Afterwards, all the Bennet daughters and their respective husbands sat around the dining room table at Longbourn with their newly widowed father and made plans. It was not long, just a few weeks, before those plans were carried out, and a messenger of a very different sort was sent to the Collinses. Mr. Collins repaired speedily to Longbourn, gratified that divine providence had chosen to smile on him after all, though perhaps not as kindly as he had first hoped.
Longbourn would be let to Mr. Collins, the house and surrounding properties together, for a very small fee each year. The small fee was so small that Mr. Bennet wondered why he bothered charging Collins anything at all. He certainly did not need the money. He and Mary would be well supported by his married daughters and he would spend a portion of his time in each of their households by turn in the upcoming years. But it was the principle of the thing—Collins should not receive for free what could not be truly his for, hopefully, a number of years yet. Accordingly, the contract was drawn up and signed and Mr. Collins prepared to take possession of Longbourn in just under a month’s time, which made him smile with happy anticipation. The parsonage was beginning to be a bit cramped for him, Mrs. Collins, and their three children, and even he had begun to tire of constantly dancing attendance on the ever-imperious Lady Catherine. It was time for a change.
And so Mr. Bennet stood in the graveyard at Longbourn church one dreary November day. In the distance he could see the carts and carriages hired by Mr. Collins, transporting his family’s possessions to Longbourn’s back door. He himself had left through the front door not half an hour previous, his own few possessions having preceded him only a short while before.
He stood with hat in hand for a few minutes, contemplating the grave of Frances Bennet. His contemplations were not all pleasant. He had held little affection for Fanny, but he had held some, and there was a part of himself that felt he had let her down by being the one to outlive the other. It was not the natural order of things, or so he felt. He ought to have been a better husband to her when she was alive, he thought, so that she might have been a better mother to their children. He ought at least to have passed before she did, so that she could have enjoyed the life he would now have with his various children, a life she would no doubt have enjoyed more thoroughly than he would.
But what was done was done, and could not well be undone. He said a quick prayer, replaced his hat on his head, and began to turn away from the grave that was already beginning to fill in with grass and leaves. But before he left, he placed his hand on the new-placed gravestone and caressed it briefly, remembering the first days of his marriage with Fanny. Then he strode away, mounted the stairs that had been placed before the carriage with an ornate D engraved on the side, and rode away from Longbourn forever.