Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to Regina and Sharon for allowing me to join the AuAu family. Being a great admirer of Jane Austen’s novels, and having enjoyed reading the beautiful works of many of the AuAu members, it is most gratifying to be so warmly welcomed by them. As this is my first post, I think it is only appropriate that I share a little about myself.
I was born in 1978 in Tehran, Iran, where I lived for the first sixteen years of my life. My childhood was an eventful one. Although I was raised in a very loving home, our lives were affected by the political upheaval that was happening in the country. Iran had just undergone a disastrous revolution, in which the Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown and was replaced by an autocratic religious dictatorship. Soon after, Iran was invaded by Iraqi military, which led to an eight-year war between the two countries, resulting in nothing but death, destruction and despair. My childhood is full of memories of war; sirens, bombs and fear. But I really believe we were a resilient generation, for despite the war and the oppressive regime, our spirits remained strong.
As it is with any dictatorship, every aspect of our lives was always under control. The government wanted to dictate what we wore, what we ate, what we thought and what we believed. But at home, we knew better, because our parents taught us better values. We lived dual lives. At school, we were taught one thing, and at home another. We read the books that were banned by the government and listened to music that was forbidden. We lived in a dystopian society the likes of which you may find in one of Orwell’s books, which ironically were also banned at the time. Under the nose of one of the most oppressive governments, and despite their best effort to stop us, we learned about freedom and liberty and justice. To borrow the words of Freire, the oppressors wanted to teach hate, but instead, we learned hope and love.
Good books were rare and expensive, and many books were forbidden. Luckily, both my parents were excellent readers and there was no shortage of books in our house. I began reading from a very young age and once I had tasted the joy of reading, I could not stop. Iranian (Persian) literature is rich in poetry, philosophy and mythology. I was especially drawn to poetry like the works of Rumi, Omar Khayyam and Hafez.
My reading was not limited to Persian literature, however. My parents’ library was filled with excellent foreign books translated to Farsi. I read Gone with the Wind when I was only nine years old, and Pride and Prejudice when I was eleven. By the time I was fourteen, I had read most of the classics, from Dickens to Tolstoy to Hemingway.
One summer, having noticed my love for reading, my father made a deal with me. He promised to buy me two books per week, provided that he chose one of the two. Of course, I accepted most willingly. I was obsessed with murder mysteries at the time and I think I read every Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on. My father’s choices were quite different. He bought me history books. He wanted me to know about the past. So, thanks to him, I learned so much about world history that summer.
My love for reading was soon followed by a strong desire to tell stories of my own. This, I believe, I inherited from my mother, who used to write poetry and short stories in her youth and from my paternal grandmother, who used to tell us the most fantastic bed-time stories when we were children. My mind was always full of stories and finally, when I was in high school, I began writing. My best friends were my first readers. They would read my stories and give me their honest feedback. It was a most gratifying experience for me to share my stories with them. However, my writing adventures came to an abrupt end, as my family and I left Iran and immigrated to Canada in 1995.
My parents’ decision to move to Canada was a very difficult one for them. They had to leave everything and everyone they knew and loved behind and to start a new life in a very different land. But they did it because they wanted to ensure a better life for me and my two siblings. Access to higher education was very difficult in Iran at that time and my parents were very keen on their children having a good education. They also wanted us to live in a free land, where we could choose how we wanted to live. I am forever grateful for their decision. Canada has been my home for the last 23 years, and I couldn’t ask for a better place to live. It did not take me long to grow roots here. I went to school, became a teacher, married and had two lovely daughters. But my writing career remained dormant for almost two decades.
I had learned English in Iran and had no trouble conversing when we first moved to Canada, but I could not write as well as I did in Farsi. Anyone who has ever learned a second language can attest to how terrible it feels when one cannot find the right words to communicate what one means to say. As an aspiring writer, this feeling is debilitating. I had so many stories to write, but I did not have the proper language to do them justice. So, I made it my mission to develop my language skills to be able to write well. I began reading again and quite extensively, from philosophy to romance. It was an amazing experience to re-read all the books I had read previously and to catch and appreciate the nuances that were lost in the translated versions. My career as a graduate student helped widen my reading material and further develop my writing skills. Finally, after nearly twenty years, I began writing again.
Needless to say, I am a great Jane Austen fan, and Pride and Prejudice has been my favourite novel for as long as I can remember. I will delve deeper into Austen’s works in future blogs, as I cannot do them justice in one paragraph. But I think the fact that my first novel is a Pride and Prejudice variation, says a lot about my sentiments in that regard. The idea for my first novel, To Save and Protect, had been playing in my mind for a while before I finally decided to write it. Like many other Jane Austen fans, I have been reading JAFF stories for years. One day, I worked up the courage to post the first chapter of To Save and Protect on fanfiction.net. I never imagined it would be received in the manner it was received. The feedback was amazing! Within days, I had hundreds of readers, connecting with me and my story.
In May 2018, To Save and Protect was published on Amazon and I was blown away by all the love and encouragement I received from readers. It is my first novel and as such, it is far from perfect. I know there is much for me to learn to improve my craft. But the warm welcome I have received from the JAFF community has been overwhelming and I am so grateful. To Save and Protect is the first novel in a trilogy. The other two books, titled To Love and Cherish and To Desire and Deserve, are complete and will be published soon. I’d like to conclude this blog with the first few pages of To Save and Protect. I hope you will enjoy it and will let me know what you think.
It was done. He had done what he had to do. He had written to her. He had shared his side of the story and enclosed his dealings with Mr. Wickham and what that scoundrel had done to his most beloved sister. Would she believe him? Would she change her opinion of him? Would she change her opinion of Wickham? Did she love Wickham?
As if in perfect accord, his legs and heart stopped at the same time. He stood in one of the lanes leading to his aunt’s grand estate, tired and broken, unable to move forward. He looked down at his shaking hands.
“I shall conquer this,” he reminded himself for the hundredth time since she had refused his hand and his heart the previous evening. He willed his body to move again. He had stayed up all night, writing to her all the things he was not able to say in their last meeting. He had not been the master of his emotions last night. He had been overcome by anger, jealousy, and passion. Had he stayed in her presence any longer, he knew he would have done something not befitting a gentleman of his breeding.
He’d wanted to kiss her. From the moment he had walked into that small room at the parsonage, he had wanted to capture her lips. He had controlled his urges with the hope of soon being rewarded with her kisses once she accepted his proposal. What a fool he had been!
She did not accept his proposal. She’d laughed at him and rejected his suit, his feelings, and all that he offered. She had called him arrogant, conceited, and selfish. She had also blamed him for keeping his friend from her sister. And then she’d blamed him for Wickham’s reduced circumstances. Wickham! She’d believed that blaggard’s lies.
And yet, even in the midst of her accusations, he’d still wanted to kiss her, if only to silence her, to show her the passion he felt for her, to ruin her reputation, and force her to marry him. He would have taken her away to Pemberley and showered her with love and kindness until she stopped hating him, and dared he hope, return his love one day.
He had almost kissed her. But then, her words held him back. She had called his conduct ungentlemanly! Never in his entire life had his conduct been characterized as ungentlemanly. To be called so, by the woman he desired, loved, and respected more than anyone in his life, the woman he had dreamed of every night, the woman he had imagined as the mother of his future children was a punishment beyond repair. And just when he had thought she could not hurt him more, she had dealt him the final blow.
“You are the last man in the world I can ever be prevailed upon to marry,” she had said, her gaze never wandering from his. She had meant every word of it. The finality of her words had broken his spirit.
Darcy stopped again. Unable to stand, he sat on the grass dropping his head into his shaking hands. “Elizabeth!” he breathed her name.
How long he sat there, he did not know. Nor did he care if he was observed by servants from the manor or by the stable hands walking by. He was a broken man. Last evening, in all his rage, he had not felt the depth of his misery. He had put all his emotions and all his unrequited passion into writing the letter. He had written all that had to be written. He had explained as honestly as he could. Earlier this morning, he had gone out in search of her. He had found her, had delivered the letter, and walked away as fast as his dignity allowed.
It was done. But he didn’t feel better for it. Last night, he had thought that writing the letter would give him the opportunity to defend himself against the charges she laid against him. But now, after delivering the letter to her, he was just as uneasy. If possible, he felt even worse. The letter signified the last of their connection. He would never see her again. Whether she believed him or not, he would never know. He would never see her beautiful face, never get lost in her magical eyes, and never hear her melodic laugh. She was out of his life forever, and what made it unbearably painful was the knowledge that their separation brought as much joy to her as it did him agony. His only consolation was that the letter would open her eyes to Wickham’s true character. He knew her to be an intelligent woman and no matter how charming Wickham was, she was now in possession of the facts. Darcy would make sure Col. Fitzwilliam would be made available to her this morning should she have any questions regarding the contents of the letter. Knowing she would be safe from Wickham made his pain a little more bearable.
Mr. Darcy raised his head upon hearing his cousin’s voice. Col. Fitzwilliam was running toward him from the direction of the house. Mr. Darcy stood up quickly, shaking the grass from his pants. As his cousin grew closer, Mr. Darcy could see signs of agitation and concern on the colonel’s usually jovial face. Being a man of the military, Col. Fitzwilliam was trained to manage dire conditions. Mr. Darcy knew immediately that whatever was bothering his cousin must be of serious nature. He walked the remaining distance to him.
“What is it, Richard?” Mr. Darcy asked. “What has happened?”
“Where have you been, Darcy?” Col. Fitzwilliam asked, panting as he finally reached Mr. Darcy. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“I was walking in the park,” Mr. Darcy replied. “Is something the matter? Is it our aunt? Is it Anne?”
“No, rest easy on that head,” the colonel assured him. “The ladies are fine. But something has happened that needs our immediate attention. Let us walk toward the house and I shall tell you everything.”
As the gentlemen began walking at a fast pace toward the house, Col. Fitzwilliam spoke in hushed tones.
“About half an hour ago,” he said, handing Mr. Darcy a letter, “our aunt received this urgent missive from Sandry Hall.”
“Sandry Hall?” Mr. Darcy asked with no little surprise. “What could Admiral Sandry have to say to our aunt? I did not think they were on speaking terms.” He opened the letter and began to read.
Sandry Hall, Kent
Unfortunate circumstances have arisen which impress on me my duty to warn you, and to urge you and all the people who live on your estate, to be on your guard. Two fugitives recently escaped from Bow Street Runners have entered our county. Unfortunately, they are both armed and dangerous and have already killed a few farmers and hurt some females in ways I dare not divulge. The fugitives have been traced as far as Sandry Hall, but not beyond. Needless to say, my men are doing everything in their power to capture these fugitives and to bring them to justice. We ask that you stay inside your manor and place as many guards as you can throughout the park. I shall send armed men to help search the surrounding area.
Admiral D. Sandry
Mr. Darcy folded the letter and faced his cousin. “Admiral Sandry is sending armed men to Rosings,” Mr. Darcy began. “This means he thinks the fugitives are moving this way rather than in the opposite direction.”
“Which means whoever these fugitives are, they may already be on Rosings’ grounds or in the woods around,” the colonel nodded with a grave face.
Mr. Darcy grew pale with apprehension. “The parsonage is located between Rosings Park and Sandry Hall,” he said. “Has anyone warned the parson and his family?”
“Yes,” Col. Fitzwilliam said. “Lady Catherine felt that she needed the parson’s assurances to soothe her distress. She sent a carriage to fetch him. I asked the driver to insist that the parson’s family should accompany him. I felt it is unwise to leave three young ladies by themselves at the parsonage.”
“You did the right thing,” Mr. Darcy approved, relieved that Elizabeth was safe.
“Unfortunately,” Col. Fitzwilliam continued, “only two of the ladies were at home. Mrs. Collins and her sister are now with our aunt and cousin. Miss Elizabeth was not at the parsonage. A message was left for her to stay indoors until the family returns.”
Mr. Darcy felt his blood freeze. “What?” he yelled.
“There was nothing to do, Darcy,” Col. Fitzwilliam shrugged. “I’m sure she is back at the parsonage by now.”
Mr. Darcy began running in the direction of the stables.
“Where are you going, Darcy?” Col. Fitzwilliam asked apprehensively. “Our aunt has been asking for you since the letter arrived.”
“I have to find her,” Mr. Darcy yelled over his shoulder. “I have to make sure she is alright.”
“Darcy!” Col. Fitzwilliam asked, confused by his cousin’s behavior. “She is at the house, sitting in her usual chair, ordering people around. Where are you going?”
Mr. Darcy stopped briefly, turned around and stared at his cousin. “I am not speaking of our aunt, Richard,” Mr. Darcy said. “I am going to find Eliz… Miss Elizabeth. She was walking in the park this morning. I saw her. She is all alone. I must find her.”
Somewhere between his earlier confusion and his cousin’s agitated state, understanding dawned on the colonel. Miss Elizabeth must mean a lot to Darcy for him to abandon everyone else and rush to rescue her. My aloof cousin is in love! “Very well,” Col. Fitzwilliam said with an amused smile. “I will take care of our aunt and the house. Go and find your fair maiden. We will deal with Lady Catherine’s wrath later.”
Mr. Darcy nodded silently. He couldn’t tell his cousin that Elizabeth was not his fair maiden and that she was never going to be his. At that moment all he cared about was her safety. He turned to run toward the stables once again.
“Darcy,” his cousin called again.
Mr. Darcy turned towards him impatiently.
“Take my pistol with you,” Col. Fitzwilliam held out his pistol. “You may need it.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Darcy said, taking his cousin’s pistol. At the stables, he ordered his stallion to be ready as fast as possible. He hid the pistol in his long coat and prayed that Elizabeth was safe within the confines of the parsonage and the fugitives were as far away from her as possible. Within minutes, Mr. Darcy was astride his black stallion riding toward the parsonage.