“Expect the Unexpected” seems a fitting phrase for a lot of my writing. I am not one that likes to present a story the same old way. I relish in finding twists and turns that are unexpected and in “fluffing out” secondary characters in a way that, I believe, stays true to the essence of what Miss Austen wrote so that they become…
Classic Characters Reimagined
I use that word reimagined or reimaginings to describe not only my characters but also the stories I write. But what is a reimagining? I don’t know that there is a set definition, but to me, a reimagining is following the original story (canon) to some point and then asking what if.
- What if Darcy had to help protect a friend after Wickham returns to claim the living he refused? (Willow Hall Romance, book 1)
- What if Elizabeth visited Derbyshire ahead of her aunt and uncle and ran into Darcy? (Willow Hall Romance, book 2)
- What if Lydia did not run away with Wickham to marry him but to have an easily manipulated guide on her adventure? (Willow Hall Romance, book 3)
- What if Bingley returned to the principles of protecting what was most dear to him at all costs as his father had taught him? (Willow Hall Romance, book 4)
- What if Caroline digs herself into a large hole of trouble and then finds someone willing to show her where she has gone wrong? (Willow Hall Romance, sequel one)
- What if Georgiana makes her debut in the London with Elizabeth at her side and Lydia’s advice in her head? (Willow Hall Romance, sequel two — which is currently only an idea with a bit of outlining that is tickling my brain)
Once you ask that first what if question, whatever follows must necessarily change in some way — it must be reimagined because it is not longer logical for it to follow the same path as prescribed in canon.
The same is true for characters. What if a character realizes their errors or is placed in a situation where they are loved and cared for in a different way? In my opinion, they cannot remain as they were. There must be growth and development — some sort of change, either to the character’s benefit or detriment.
Later this month, I will be releasing, At All Costs, the fourth book in the Willow Hall Romance Series. This series, just like my Choices series, is a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice and includes both original characters and secondary characters that have been “fluffed out.”
At All Costs is Bingley’s story, but when you approach this book, do not expect a weak Bingley. He is anything but weak. He is a gentleman with an amiable facade beneath which lies the heart of a shrewd man who has been taught good principles by his father. He is well-versed enough in the social graces to present himself admirably in the society occupied by gentleman, but he also has roots in the rough world of trade. He is a man who is coming into his own and learning to balance and blend these two very different sides of who he is.
I am hoping that by the time At All Costs is released, the first Willow Hall sequel focusing on Caroline will also be ready to publish. In her story, Caroline is facing the consequences of sins committed in At All Costs. However, there is one person who sees potential in Caroline and is determined to help her return to the pleasant person she was before she set her cap at Darcy.
This novelette, Better Than She Deserved, will be made available for purchase through all my regular vendors and as a free read on darcyandlizzy.com, but I will also be using it as a mailing list perk. This means that all those who are on my mailing list before the book releases will receive a link to download a copy of the story as will all who sign up for my mailing list after the book releases. (This will be in addition to the copy of Teatime Tales that is currently a sign-up perk.)
A side note for those who might be interested in my mailing list: I do not email my list very often. Usually, it is when there is a sale that is scheduled or if there is a new book coming out. Often, I make extended sneak peeks of upcoming books available to my list members, and there is always a first come/first serve giveaway of a few advance reader copies about a week before the release of a book.
Well, I can’t announce the upcoming release of a book without an excerpt, can I?
No, I don’t think I can. So below please find an excerpt from At All Costs, as well as one from Caroline’s story, Better than She Deserved, and allow me to apologize now for the length of this post. 😉
By the look on Caroline Bingley’s face, she had not expected her brother to be the one opening the carriage door. “Ch…Charles,” she stammered.
“Caroline, you are not expected here.” He turned his attention to Mr. Hurst, who was gripping the top of his walking stick so firmly that his knuckles were white. “Did you not receive my letters?” Bingley asked him.
“We did,” said Louisa, “but –”
“I did not ask you,” Bingley snapped, causing his eldest sister to gasp and cover her mouth in surprise.
“We did,” said Hurst uneasily, “but you know how your sisters can be.” There was a note of pleading for understanding in his voice. “I accepted the invitation to Hadaway’s house party, and we are expected there, but…” He shrugged and looked at Bingley apologetically. “There are two of them and only one of me.”
As angry as Bingley was to have his sisters arrive unannounced, he did understand how they could wear a man down. Is that not how they had often gotten their way all their lives?
“When are you expected?” Bingley asked.
“Tomorrow,” Hurst replied. “I had thought to stop one more night and then continue on so that we,” he nodded his head toward Caroline, “would appear to best advantage when arriving.”
Bingley nodded his approval of the idea. He knew that Hurst was equally as anxious to be rid of Caroline, for though she was the youngest of the Bingley siblings, she was the most overbearing. Louisa had not the temperament to stand up to Caroline, and so, what Caroline suggested, Louisa did, even now as a married woman.
“There is an inn in Lambton. There would be a greater distance to be travelled tomorrow, to be certain, but it could be accomplished.”
“An inn?” said Caroline in shock.
“Yes, an inn.” Bingley gave her a hard, unwavering look.
“Might we stretch our legs?” Louisa asked. “Please. I am quite stiff.”
Bingley looked first at one sister and then the other and back again. “You may get out of the carriage, but you are not entering Pemberley.” He stepped back and allowed Hurst to help his sisters from the carriage.
“But, Charles,” said Caroline as she exited the carriage, “a little refreshment is needed.”
Bingley shook his head. “No, you may refresh at the inn. It is not so very far to Lambton.”
“Seriously, Charles, an inn?” Caroline gave him a look of amused disbelief. “There are plenty of rooms at Pemberley. It would not be an inconvenience for us to stay the night.”
“I am not jesting, Caroline. You may stretch your legs and then be on your way. Did I not explicitly say you were not to come to Pemberley?’
Caroline waved his words away. “There was no reason for us not to come. Pemberley is on the way to Hadaway’s, and Darcy is our friend as much as he is yours.”
“Darcy is polite and tolerates you.” Bingley gave a bitter laugh. “And I have been no better, forcing him to put up with the likes of you.”
Again, Louisa gasped and covered her mouth. Bingley could well imagine her surprise at his actions this afternoon. It was not often that he allowed his anger to get the best of him in the presence of ladies — even if those ladies were his sisters.
“Me?” Caroline blinked wide eyes at him. “It is not I who has done him the disservice of seeing him connected to those beneath him.”
Bingley’s eyes narrowed. So, they were to come to it. “Do you dare stand before his home and disparage the lady he will call wife in one week’s time?”
“Charles,” Caroline’s tone was cajoling, “even you must admit she is not of his sphere. It will become apparent to one and all soon enough, and then do you think he will remain your friend? You, who led him to such a place as Hertfordshire?”
Bingley stepped close to Caroline and lowered his voice. “You go too far, Sister.”
“Oh, I do not think I have gone far enough. Had I done more, this travesty might have been prevented. Indeed, it still might.” Caroline smiled slyly.
Bingley’s jaw clenched and relaxed. “Darcy is marrying Miss Elizabeth. Take one last look at Pemberley and be gone. You shall not see it again.”
Caroline cocked her head and patted her brother’s arm before stepping around him. “Mr. Darcy, it is good to see you.”
Bingley closed his eyes and shook his head. Of all the unfortunate times for Darcy to appear! Two minutes longer and Caroline would have been gone.
“We are on our way to Hadaway’s,” Caroline explained in her sweetest voice, “and since Pemberley was on our way, we could not resist the opportunity to call and wish you joy.”
“Indeed?” Darcy’s eyes looked to Bingley in question. “I had it from your brother that you would not be visiting.”
Caroline laughed lightly and shot her brother a triumphant smile. “It was not planned. We only wished to stop for a few minutes before continuing on to the inn in Lambton for the night. We are expected at the house party tomorrow, you see.” She looked about as if expecting to see someone. “Would we be so fortunate as to see Miss Eliza and Miss Darcy?”
Bingley shook his head when Darcy looked his direction.
Darcy gave a small incline, barely a tip, of his head in acceptance of Bingley’s unspoken suggestion. “They are occupied at the moment. Miss Bennet felt a headache developing, and Miss Elizabeth and Georgiana are seeing to her needs.”
“Miss Bennet? Miss Jane Bennet?” Caroline cast a concerned look toward Bingley.
“Yes, she is visiting the area along with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. It seems my tenants at Willow Hall are related to the Gardiners.”
“Oh,” said Caroline, “how fortunate.”
Bingley smiled at the disappointed tone in her voice.
“Indeed, it was most fortunate. I had not thought to see Miss Elizabeth again so soon after leaving her in Kent this spring.” Darcy cut a glance toward Bingley and, catching his eye, winked at him and flicked a brow up quickly.
“In Kent?” Caroline could not contain her surprise at this bit of information.
“Yes, her cousin is my aunt’s parson,” Darcy replied. “I believe you met Mr. Collins, did you not?”
“He married Miss Lucas. You remember her, do you not?”
Again, Caroline nodded.
“Miss Elizabeth and Mrs. Collins are good friends, so it was only natural that a visit must take place. Happily, it was the same time my cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and I were visiting my aunt Lady Catherine.”
“How fortunate,” muttered Caroline.
“My cousin is here now. We are gathered in the garden. Perhaps a stroll before you are on your way would be beneficial?” He motioned to the side of the house.
Bingley breathed a sigh of relief. Darcy was not going to play the gallant and insist on Caroline and the Hursts staying at Pemberley. Bingley would have to thank him for that later.
“That would be lovely,” said Louisa, “I have always enjoyed the grounds here. They are so well designed.”
Darcy gave a bow of his head in thanks and led the way toward the garden.
AND AN EXCERPT FROM Better Than She Deserved (which should give you a good idea of what the plot is going to be and for those who follow my blog, this is the second half of chapter one that I shared in a Music Monday post)
Mr. Franklin Rhett slipped down the hall and away from the over-zealous matrons in the drawing room. Even though he lacked an estate and his fortune was acquired from both his father, who was a manufacturer, and an uncle on his mother’s side, who was in trade, he was not being ignored as he had expected he would be. He chuckled to himself. No, the ladies and their chaperones were far from ignoring him. It was quite the opposite. He had been interviewed — or as the ladies would phrase it, engaged in conversation — by at least three chaperones before he had made his escape. There were two others, who, while talking to some of the other gentlemen in the room, had been eying him as if he were a platter of sweets.
However, Rhett was more interested in finding his friend and having a discussion of some importance with him instead of entertaining the marriage-hungry mob in the drawing room. If he knew Hurst — and he knew him quite well — Hurst would likely be in the library with a glass of brandy or port. If there was one thing that man knew how to do, other than making money, it was finding a place that would provide a fortifying beverage and a safe haven from females.
Rhett could feel the tension of the last several minutes melting from his shoulders as the voices from the other room faded with each step toward the library. He heaved a great sigh of relief as he neared his destination and was just reaching for the knob of the door through which lay his escape to solitude and manly machinations when it opened, and he was presented with a delightful surprise. He smiled but made no move to make way for the ball of fury that was propelling her way through the door.
Caroline Bingley was so infuriated with her brother-in-law’s high-handedness and so determined to close the door behind her in such a way as to signal her displeasure, that she did not bother to look where she was going and, so, having pulled the door to with a resounding bang, she turned and bumped straight into a very solid masculine figure. “Oh,” she gasped as she stumbled.
“Are you quite alright?” Rhett asked as he caught Caroline by the elbow, helping her keep her footing.
“Yes, yes, I am well. Thank you,” Caroline muttered. She was well as far has her person went, but as far as her happiness was concerned, she was far from well. She had failed at securing the position of mistress of Pemberley and now, her funds were being cut to an alarmingly low level, and her sister’s husband, who was supposed to be easily swayed, was giving her two weeks to find a husband. Two weeks. She huffed at the thought. It was only a bit of gossip. She smoothed her sleeves and checked her gown. Well, it was perhaps rather scandalous gossip.
“Miss Bingley?” Rhett’s lips remained curled into a pleased smile. This was the lady he had hoped to find at this house party. In fact, it was only because Hurst had mentioned being forced to escort his wife’s sister to this party that Rhett had retrieved his own discarded invitation and accepted against his first inclination.
Caroline’s brows furrowed as she studied the face of the man in front of her. He looked familiar, but she could not place his name. He was a friend of Hurst, she believed. Or, at least, he was a gentleman who sought Hurst’s advice about investments, which meant that he was not the sort of man to whom she would have paid attention as she rarely paid attention to friends of Hurst, and he was likely no better off in his societal standing than she was.
“Mr. Franklin Rhett,” he said by way of introduction. “I believe we have met at a few soirees and in passing when I visited your brother.”
Caroline curtseyed and smiled as was proper. “I must apologize. I do not recall our meeting.” She rather wished she did recall their meeting so that she would know more about him, for he was rather attractive with those piercing blue eyes and raven black locks that fell softly on his forehead and hung around his ears.
“That is to be expected, I suppose, as I was never fortunate enough to secure a dance,” he paused, “although I did make the attempt.” He stepped to the side to let her pass but caught her arm as she did. “I do hope we can at least spend a few moments getting to know one another while we are here. I know there is no dancing for a fortnight, but perhaps you would join me for a walk in the garden one day.”
“Perhaps,” she replied, pulling her arm away gently. There was something very unsettling about both the way he looked at her and his touch. It was not unpleasantly unsettling, but unsettling nonetheless. She glanced over her shoulder as she scurried down the hall. She would have to ask her sister about Mr. Rhett. If he were of good standing perhaps he could take Mr. Darcy’s place. Not that any estate could ever compare to Pemberley, she admitted with a sigh.
“Ah, Hurst, I thought I might find you here.” Rhett entered the library and nodded his acceptance when Hurst lifted the decanter of port in offer of a glass. “I met your sister in the hall. She did not look pleased.”
Hurst laughed. “She is not, but then again, neither am I nor Bingley. Caroline has pushed her ambitions too far this time.”
Rhett’s brows raised. “Indeed?” This sounded promising.
“Do not get me started,” Hurst said as he handed his friend a glass before taking his own and dropping into a chair. “Darcy is marrying.”
Ah, so that was it. “And he is not marrying her?” There were not many who were unaware of Caroline Bingley’s ambitions in regards to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Hurst laughed once again. “As if that were ever a possibility.” He shook his head as he continued to chuckle. “No, Darcy found a country miss.” He smirked and lifted a brow as he made the statement. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet is a gentleman’s daughter, but not one of significance. Mr. Bennet’s estate stands next to Netherfield in Hertfordshire, you see.”
“The place she did not wish her brother to take?”
Hurst tapped his nose as he swallowed a large amount of his port. “Precisely.” He placed his nearly empty glass on the table beside him. “It gets worse.”
“Worse than losing Darcy to a country nobody because her brother took Netherfield against her better judgment?” Rhett asked with a laugh.
“Charles is marrying Miss Elizabeth’s sister Jane.”
Rhett’s eyes grew wide. “And then he shall remain forever at this estate she despised?”
Hurst shook his head. “It is unlikely. Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth are close. I suspect Charles will be looking for something in Derbyshire. But it is enough that he is marrying Miss Elizabeth’s sister. Caroline attempted to stop it, of course, but has only been successful in being cut off.”
A pleased smile crept onto Rhett’s face. Things did appear to be very promising.
“I have given her until the end of this blasted party to secure a husband.”
Rhett drained the last of his port from his glass. “So, you would be open to negotiations?”
Hurst blinked. “You would wish to take that,” he waved at the door through which Caroline had recently exited, “for a wife?”
“I assure you all my mental faculties are functioning as they should be,” Rhett said in response to the incredulous look Hurst was giving him. “I find her attractive, and before she set her cap at Darcy, she was pleasant, even charming and witty at times.”
Hurst cleared his throat. “Your money comes from manufacturing,”
Rhett nodded. “Which is why she has refused to dance with me three times if I am recalling correctly.” He held up a finger. “And I believe, it was your wife who reminded her of my disqualifications.”
Hurst grimaced. ‘Louisa is far too willing to do anything to keep her sister happy.” He returned to his drink. “That is why I have given Caroline until the end of this party to engage herself to some man. I cannot abide the thought of hosting her for the season.” He raised a brow. “And on limited funds from Charles.”
So Hurst was not exaggerating when he said the chit had been cut off. “Her dowry remains as it was?”
Hurst nodded. “But you are still not landed gentry.”
Rhett shrugged. “Not yet, but I am not opposed to taking an estate. You know this.” He leaned forward. “As I see it, you have a problem with which I can help.”
Hurst shook his head. He wished to see Caroline out the door and into someone else’s home, but he was certain she would not be easily convinced to accept anything less than a gentleman in possession of money and an estate. She was desperate to leave her ties to trade behind. “I do not see her even entertaining the thought.”
Rhett’s smile grew. “That does not need to be a hindrance. If you wished to make a deal with a chap who was being difficult, how would you go about it?”
The question was met by a short burst of laughter. “I would remove all other options.” He tipped his head and looked at his friend. Rhett was not a weak-willed man. He might do very well for Caroline. “You would take on such a surly wife?”
“I would, though I would do my best to help her return to the lady she was before she set her cap at Darcy.” He settled back into this chair and unbuttoned his waistcoat. “Now, tell me what she has done to push an amiable man like Charles to the point of cutting her off, and I shall devise a plan to secure her as the wife I desire.”
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments.