Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley and an Excerpt

Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley and an Excerpt

I love a good Jane Austen Fan Fiction, whether they are sequels, variations, alternate universe, modern era – I can safely say I adore all the good ones. When I heard about the play Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley appearing on stage a few years ago, I wondered if the people who put it on, or even the audiences realized that it was essentially, Fan Fiction. The play was written on the premise from one line of a letter Elizabeth wrote to her Aunt Gardiner in Chapter 60 of Pride and Prejudice:

Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas.

As with many Fan Fictions, the playwrights, Lauren Gunderson, and Margot Melcon took some liberties with the cast and characterizations, granting Mary Bennet a good deal of personal growth in the two years since Elizabeth and Darcy were married and introducing a new character, one Lord Arthur de Bourgh, the true heir of Rosings Park. Mary steps forward from the ranks of supporting characters into the leading role in this comedy with the awkward Lord Arthur sparking a mutual romantic interest neither of them has the native social skills to easily pursue.

The play was well received upon its debut, and so has been seen on stage nationwide, including Salt Lake City, performed by the Pioneer Theatre Company this year. The run of this play ended on December 15. The theater doesn’t allow patrons to take photos, so I’ve linked their photo page here for those who enjoy such things.

Although I spotted a number of “goofs,” but I won’t detail them here. Overall, the play was delightful. I found myself pondering on the utility of presenting such a story on stage as opposed to in the pages of a book. Female readers expect the romantic lead to be something of an alpha-male, or at least alpha-adjacent, such as Mr. Bingley. Lord Arthur de Bourgh was neither, but the story still worked, as I found myself truly rooting for Mary and Arthur to sort out their feelings and figure out how to overcome their mutual trepidation. Anyone who has felt a spark of attraction and had no idea how to proceed would be able to relate to the dilemma these young lovers faced.

If you have seen this play, I would love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

Speaking of Fan Fiction, I’ve had a few inquiries recently relating to the status of my next book. Writing has taken a back-seat to family responsibilities these past few months, but I’m eager to get back to writing and finish the book, which is not yet named. I have a working title that I’m not happy with, so I’m still pondering on the name. I thought you might enjoy an excerpt from my work-in-progress as a bit of a teaser.

The time had come. Elizabeth spent the better part of a day pondering and planning her conversation with Mrs Reynolds. She notified the housekeeper through a note delivered by the butler that she wished to meet to discuss household matters at ten o’clock the next morning. With every desire to be fair, she had even included an agenda for their meeting.

At the appointed hour, Mrs Reynolds knocked on the door of Elizabeth’s sunny little office. Elizabeth welcomed her and invited her to sit, noting that the provided agenda was clutched in the housekeeper’s hand.

“Mrs Reynolds,” she began, “it has been a month since we arrived at Pemberley for the summer and you have graciously allowed me a few weeks to settle in, and I thank you for that. It is time, however, that I more fully engage as mistress in my husband’s houses.”

Mrs Reynolds sat at the edge of the seat, her face composed, but Elizabeth detected a trembling in her hands that betrayed some unease. “Of course, Mrs Darcy.”

Elizabeth smiled warmly at the woman. If her plan was to be successful, she had to determine what had caused the housekeeper to develop such an attitude toward her in the first place. “I would like to know more about you,” she began. “When did you come to service in this house?”

Mrs Reynolds adjusted her position in the chair, sitting a bit further back on the cushion, but still with a stiff spine. “It has been above twenty years now, mistress. The master was but four years old when I came to Pemberley.”

“So, you have known him since he was a very young child.”

“Aye, that I have, and what a wonderful child he was. Such a loving, trusting boy. I have never heard a cross word from him in his entire life, and that is a fact.” She adjusted her position again, pushing herself further until she met with the back of the chair.

“Never? That is remarkable,” Elizabeth replied. “I would dearly love to hear more of what he was like in his youth, and contemplate on the temperaments of our future children.”

Mrs Reynolds’ face relaxed into a softer expression as she began to reminisce. As she spoke, Elizabeth recognized that the loyalty that she had detected in her husband for his housekeeper was returned a hundred-fold in her feelings toward Darcy. We have something in common, and that is our love for Fitzwilliam. I can build on that. Elizabeth smiled encouragingly at the housekeeper, allowing the memories to flow for several minutes.

“It sounds to me as if when Lady Anne passed away that you took it upon yourself to be like a second mother to him.”

“Oh no,” Mrs Reynolds replied. “I took nothing on myself at all. It was Lady Anne herself who made me promise to look after him. She worried for him. He wasn’t like the other boys, all wild and rattling away. He was such a tender-hearted lad, so earnest and gentle like his mother. That boy was always conscientious and mindful of all that would fall to him someday. From an early age, he demonstrated a strong will to be as good of a master as his father had been. And he is, Mistress. He is the best brother, the best landlord, the best master there ever was.” Mrs Reynolds’s face shone with unadulterated pride in the man.

“This, I have seen for myself.” Elizabeth nodded and smiled, adding, “And the best husband too.”

At this, the barest hint of a frown crossed Mrs Reynolds lips before she pressed them together and made no reply. An epiphany rained down in Elizabeth’s mind. There it is. I should have perceived this sooner, for it is so apparent now. She has raised him so high in her mind that she does not think I am good enough for him. Oh dear. This is what I must overcome if there is to be harmony between us. I must seek her good opinion. I have never done such for anyone, not even Fitzwilliam.

Thanks for reading, and please take a moment to comment. We love to hear from you!

26 Responses to Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley and an Excerpt

  1. I have had high hopes you would write another book! Can’t wait to see what comes next. I am excited that this one is based after they are married. Write quickly!?

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Sue. I hope to get back to it after the holidays. Remember what they say – the first year of marriage can be tough… 😉

  2. I haven’t been to a live performance in years. As we have gotten older, driving at nigh is a problem. The theater we frequented closed and it is several miles to the nearest stage. Oh well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the production you saw. I enjoyed the excerpt. Mrs. Reynolds made the comment that she didn’t know who would be good enough for Mr. Darcy as Elizabeth and the Gardiners were touring Pemberley. Apparently Elizabeth forgot that statement. Yes, she will have to earn her approbation. She will be reluctant to turn the running of Pemberley over to this unknown. Bless her heart. There be rough waters ahead.

    • I have to bite my tongue here, lest I give too many things away. I will mention, however, that in the timeline I’m working in, Elizabeth and Darcy got married before the visit to Pemberley that is in the P&P canon, so Elizabeth is just figuring out this attitude Mrs. Reynolds has towards the master. Thanks for commenting!

  3. They did the play in the Chicago Metro area, but I found out after the face and never saw it. Thanks for your notice here. Jen

    • That is how it goes sometimes. Several years ago there was a Josh Groban concert here in SLC on my birthday, but by the time I found out about it so I could hint that JG tickets were what I wanted for my birthday, they were sold out. I hate finding out about something wonderful too late to participate. Hopefully it will come around again soon. Thanks for the comment, Jen Red.

  4. There’s a lot of P & P variations but not so many sequels I found regarding the life after becoming Mrs Darcy. This is interesting and a different Elizabeth – looking forward to unfolding how she wins the hearts of Mrs Reynolds and maybe other too who doubt her sincere affections for Mr D. Thank you for the excerpt.

    • I can understand why there are so few “after marriage” variations. It is a challenging scenario to write. They are already in love, so that moment–which is great fun to write–is already in the past. It is said that the first year of a marriage tends to be the most challenging, so that is the premise I’m going forward with. The big struggle for Elizabeth is being Mrs. Darcy while remaining true to herself – changing without changing, as it were. I appreciate your encouragement.

  5. Interesting excerpt, Diana. So, Mrs. Reynolds is not happy with Elizabeth. I look forward to reading more…as soon as you can. Thank you. 🙂

  6. Oh dear, it looks like Elizabeth is going to have problems trying to convince Mrs Reynolds that she is worthy of being the wife of Mr Darcy!
    I love stories which have them married so look forward to this one.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the play, it sounds enjoyable and it seems that Mary may get a happy ending (although I wonder what Lady Catherine will say!)

    • Hi Glynis. You are correct in your presumption about where my excerpt was going, but I won’t say more than that. You are also correct about Mary, but SPOILER ALERT Lady Catherine has passed away shortly before the play takes place, so it is Anne who makes an appearance…and has plenty to say…in the style of her mother. Thanks for commenting!

    • Thank you. I was excited to take a break from the goofs and trivia series to share a bit of my work with you all. Have a wonderful Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.

  7. I hope to read more of your novel soon! Elizabeth seems to have her work cut out for her with Mrs. Reynolds! We would hope that Elizabeth’s love and loyalty toward her husband will do much to persuade Mrs. Reynolds that Elizabeth is indeed a worthy wife for her dear Master.

    Thank you for sharing the play and this excerpt with us!

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    • Thank you for commenting. I hope to have more to share soon too. Picking excerpts that don’t give away the plot is a challenge, so I’m not going go comment on what happens between Elizabeth and Mrs. Reynolds, but let’s just say that Mrs. Reynolds is keeping a close eye on Elizabeth and doesn’t miss much, making for an interesting relationship between the young new mistress and the housekeeper who has ruled the household for over a decade.

  8. A definitely different Mrs Reynolds – usually she’s welcoming Elizabeth with open arms. Are there any others who need to be convinced? Will be waiting for more excerpts.

    • Thank you. The idea for this scene actually came from Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth is visiting Pemberley with the Gardiners:

      “Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?”
      “Not so much as I could wish, Sir; but I dare say he may spend half his time here; and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months.”
      “Except,” thought Elizabeth, “when she goes to Ramsgate.”
      “If your master would marry, you might see more of him.”
      “Yes, Sir; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know who is good enough for him.”
      Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, “It is very much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so.”

      In the alternate timeline created in my first two books, this never happened, but I liked the idea that Mrs. Reynolds would have set a very high bar in her mind regarding the future Mrs. Darcy. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Oh I wish I could see the play! As for your excerpt, you have my attention! Yes, Elizabeth will have her work cut out for her proving to Mrs. Reynolds that she is worthy of Mr. Darcy. Looking forward to how you will make this all happen!

    • Thank you. I think that the play will continue to be a popular holiday production for a few years – you may well have a chance, so keep your eye on the offerings of your local theater companies. I hope so. And yes, Elizabeth does have her work cut out for her in this story. 🙂

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