Mrs. Grant, with a temper to love and be loved, must have gone with some regret from the scenes and people she had been used to; but the same happiness of disposition must in any place, and any society, secure her a great deal to enjoy, and she had again a home to offer Mary; and Mary had had enough of her own friends, enough of vanity, ambition, love, and disappointment in the course of the last half-year, to be in need of the true kindness of her sister’s heart, and the rational tranquillity of her ways. They lived together; and when Dr. Grant had brought on apoplexy and death, by three great institutionary dinners in one week, they still lived together; for Mary, though perfectly resolved against ever attaching herself to a younger brother again, was long in finding among the dashing representatives, or idle heir-apparents, who were at the command of her beauty, and her 20,000, any one who could satisfy the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield, whose character and manners could authorise a hope of the domestic happiness she had there learned to estimate, or put Edmund Bertram sufficiently out of her head.
–Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
This is where Jane Austen leaves Mary Crawford — in London, with her loving sister, tired of her friends and her old ways, and hoping to find someone who could provide a happy and secure future. And this is where I picked up the pen Miss Austen put down and continue Mary’s story to the point of a happily ever after that will provide “the domestic happiness” she seeks while putting “Edmund Bertram out of her head.”
Mary’s journey of reformation that leads to her happy future begins in book one of my Other Pens, Mansfield Park series. In Henry’s story, Mary is still under the influence of her old friends and attempting to fit into their way of living. The result of some scheming in which she participates with these friends deals the first of the final blows that will drive her to put away her friends and find a new way of living.
“Mr. Crawford,” Henry corrected with a slight growl. “You may refer to me as Mr. Crawford.”
Her mouth dropped open. “But you are my brother,” she protested.
“And you are my sister,” he ground out, “yet, you would scheme to see me disgraced. Where is your heart? At this moment, I would very much doubt you possess such an organ if I had not seen it over the years as we grew up.” He shook his head. “When you find your heart, then you may call me Henry again. I cannot erase the connection we have through parents, though presently I would very much wish to do so.”
from Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy
“I saw your sister,” Charles said as he flopped into the same chair he had taken just a day ago after seeing Evelyn at Eiddwen House.
Henry filled the same cup with tea he had filled on that day and placed it in front of his friend. “Did you?”
“She is looking for someone to fill your place at her friends’ soirees.”
from Charles: To Discover His Purpose
She has no success with Charles, and by the end of book two, she is actively seeking out her brother. Charles intercepts her and gives her a rather rude set down. (He has his reasons, which include a black eye.) It is immediately after this exchange with Charles that Mary’s story begins.
Mary Crawford watched her brother’s friend, Charles Edwards, walk away from her. Anger and hurt warred within her. If she could just make the anger stronger than the pain of yet another rejection, she would be able to keep her chin held high and the tears where they should be – locked away. Tears were a sign of weakness, something upon which a gentleman could ply his game. She was not the sort of lady who would be a pawn in some gentleman’s game.
“That was rather harsh. Not undeserved, I would venture, but harsh,” someone said behind her.
“Indeed, it was!” Mr. Tenley, with whom she was supposed to dance, agreed forcefully.
Mary steeled her spine and turned toward the gentleman behind her. “Mr. Bertram.”
Tom Bertram gave her a small bow. “Miss Crawford.” He greeted. “I am well, and so is most of my family.” He offered without her inquiring.
from Mary: To Protect Her Heart
Tom will deal the final blow.
“You thought about me?”
Again, he nodded. “How could I not? I wished to do you harm for some time, but then, I found I could accept what had happened and for my own good, I knew I needed to forgive. Not forget. Not welcome back with open arms. But forgive.” He stopped walking. “I do not hold what you and your brother have done to my family against either of you, but I do need to know why. Why would you toy with my family as you did? Why would you conspire to hurt them?”
Mary’s mouth dropped open. She had never considered her actions in such a light. For with Tom’s questions she saw herself not as the beautiful, vivacious woman she knew herself to be, but as the surly, depraved admiral against whom she had been fighting for so long.
“I… I… I am not certain,” she stammered. “I suppose I never thought it would do any harm to have a bit of fun.” The words tasted bitter in her mouth as she said them. What a sorry excuse for causing so much pain! A bit of fun! That was what the admiral had always said to his wife. ‘I do not know why you are so put out over my having a bit of fun.’ She shuttered. How had she become what she loathed?
Finally, as she sees her deeds in a new and horrifying light, Mary is not only ready but also eager to change her ways. There is no way she is going to allow herself to resemble the admiral in any form — no matter what she must do to change. Thankfully, she’ll not have to proceed down that path alone as one of Tom’s friends, Gabriel Durward, will be happy to keep her company.
The gentleman next to him leaned toward him. “I hear there is a prize in the harbour.”
Gabe patted the breast of his jacket. “I have a list of her contents right here, and I understand the court will hear the case in two days.”
“You are intent on purchasing it?”
Gabe nodded. “The contents are worthy.”
Mary listened with interest as they wove in and out and around.
The same gentleman continued, “Was it one of yours which took her?”
Gabe shook his head. “Not this time.”
“A privateer?” The question flew from Mary’s mouth as quickly as her brows rose in surprise.
Gabe gave a sharp nod of his head. “It’s my way of defending against the enemy’s success.”
“While promoting his own,” the man next to him laughed.
“Not unlike what the naval men do. However, I try never to sink my opponent.”
“Oh, I am not faulting you,” the gentleman hurried to assure him before they were separated to take a different place in the line and hear the last few notes of the music fade.
“Do you not approve of such activity?” Mr. Durward asked Mary as they formed a circle for the second dance of their set.
“I have never really considered it,” she answered honestly. “I guess I just thought that the men who did such work were,” she paused, “less refined.”
He smiled at her whispered final words. “You are likely correct. I find all of this rather taxing at times. But, I would, at some point, like to marry, so it must be endured.”
She returned his smile. He was delightfully refreshing from the gentlemen with whom she was usually partnered. They were constantly attempting to be what they were not as they crowed their delight about one dance or another. It was part of the game — the dreadfully, boring game in which she found herself ensconced.
“And you, Miss Crawford? Do you enjoy this?” He waved his hand to indicate the room.
She looked around her. What did she enjoy about this? It was not the posturing of the people. It was not the heat that increased with each dance. It was not the endless list of rules to be observed. Nor was it smiling when she wished to be serious.
“I enjoy dancing,” she said at last, “but otherwise?” She lifted and lowered her shoulders in a shrug as a smile which was not forced or intended to entice or cajole curled her lips. “Not a thing. Not a single thing.”
“Well, Miss Crawford,” Gabe replied, “then we shall have to endure it together.”
She took his hand as they began the dance. “I should like that very much, Mr. Durward.”
As you might be able to tell from the above excerpt, Gabe is not your standard landowner or second son, but I think, just like Miss Crawford, you’re going to grow to love him.
To give you one more peek at our hero and heroine, I’ve included another short excerpt from Mary: To Protect Her Heart below. Under the excerpt, there is publication information as well as an opportunity to win a copy of the book, so make sure you don’t miss that.
“Durward.” The door to his office swung open and one of his partners, Mr. Radcliff, walked in. “I was on my way to my office and saw that we have visitors.”Radcliff was always curious to meet anyone new who entered the building. Some would call him friendly, but to Gabe, there was something about the way in which he did it that smacked more of a busybody.“Allow me to introduce you to Miss Crawford and her sister Mrs. Grant.”“Ladies,” Radcliff made a sweeping bow.
“This is Mr. Radcliff,” Gabe continued. “He is a recent addition to our group.”
“How recent?” Margaret asked.
“What has it been now? Six months?” Gabe asked Radcliff.
“Seven, Friday next,” Radcliff replied. “I hear there is a meeting tomorrow. Is that correct?”
Gabe nodded. “There is a letter of marque to be discussed.”
Radcliffe turned toward Mary and Margaret. “I hope you have not found your visit with us too taxing or tiresome.”
“Oh, quite the contrary!” Margaret replied with some force. “This place is very stimulating. Is it not, Mary?”
“Excessively,” Mary agreed. “I have never seen anything like this, so to me, it is fascinating.”
“Well, Durward, I commend you on finding friends…” There was a lift to the word that made it more of a question than a statement. “…who are interested in what we do.”
“Very fortunate,” Gabe replied with a smile for Mary. He would let Radcliff wonder a bit longer about their relationship. He sat in his chair and unlocked the door on the right side of his desk. There was a ledger that he wished to take home. He had noticed a few numbers seemed to be off in the book in which he had been working last night, and he wanted to clarify any errors before tomorrow’s meeting.
“My cousin…” Again, there was that questioning lift. This time it was accompanied by a questioning look at Gabe. “…is unwilling to even drive past the docks. This is why I think it is so unusual to meet two ladies who are not only willing to drive past but also stop and enter a warehouse.”
“These things are not for every lady,” Margaret assured him. “But I must admit to being a very curious sort of person, and when Mr. Durward suggested a tour, I could not resist. Mary is quite the same. Very curious.”
Gabe frowned at the contents of his desk. He was certain he had placed the small black receipt book on top of the brown ledger and not the other way around as they were now. He shook his head. Perhaps he had not. It was not as if books could rearrange themselves. He took both books from the cupboard and put them on his desk. It would not hurt to give both books a thorough going over. In fact, the receipt book might prove handy in checking some of the figures in the other ledgers.
“Did you wish to stay longer to watch the workers?” he asked Mary.
She shook her head. “If you have what you need, I am content to leave.”
He tucked the books into a leather satchel and took his hat from the wall.
“It has been lovely to meet you,” Mary said to Radcliff before accepting Gabe’s proffered arm.
“Likewise, likewise,” Radcliff replied as he held the door open for them, his eyes were still filled with curiosity.Gabe waited for Radcliff to move away from the door so that he could lock it. Then, he once again offered his arm to Mary and gave a nod of farewell to Radcliff. “There might be time for a short drive before I return you home if you are willing to spend a few more minutes with me.”“I am in no hurry to go home,” Mary replied. “I do not know when I have enjoyed myself so much as today. I am certain none of my other suitors ever took me anywhere as interesting as this.”“It is because it is novel,” Gabe returned. “I am certain that the first time you visited the museum, it was much more interesting than this warehouse and a few ships.”The laugh that answered such a comment was a sound Gabe would like to hear often.
“Again, you have answered me plainly instead of attempting to inflate the status of your business. However, there was one thing that the museum lacks compared to here.”
“And what is that?” he asked as they descended the stairs.
“People,” she replied.
“There are always people at the museum,” he countered.
“But they are not part of the exhibit as it were,” she argued. “Today, I have gotten a glimpse, small as it might be, of another way of life. However, if you should like, you may take me to the museum, and then, I shall be able to tell you for certain which I find most interesting. For,” she looked away, and a faint blush crept up her cheeks, “it might just be the company I am keeping which makes this warehouse so delightful.”
“I am flattered,” he replied quietly. “I must say that I have not found my warehouse as inviting as it was today while you and Mrs. Grant were here.” He held her gaze for a moment before opening the door, so they could exit. She did not look away but met his eyes and smiled, and he noted there was barely a trace of wariness in her expression. And that, more than the pleasure she expressed in seeing his business or the flattering words she had bestowed upon him, buoyed his heart, for if she could trust him, she might just come to love him. His lips curled into a lopsided grin as he handed her into the carriage. His mother was right, it took very little for one’s heart to decide its course.
By the end of this week, Mary: To Protect Her Heart will be on preorder at a special introductory price of $2.99 USD*. After the preorder ends, the price will go up to $4.99 USD. (Release day is set for December 10, 2018.) *Prices in all territories are reduced based on the USD reduction.
During this preorder period, both Henry’s and Charles’s stories will also be on sale for just $2.99 USD* as this series is really best read together as events in one book are assumed knowledge in the next. 🙂 Besides — you’ll love them!
And if those sales prices aren’t special enough by themselves, I am also giving away one ebook copy of Mary’s story to a lucky reader who comments on this post. This contest ends on December 4, 2018, at 11:59 PM EST with the winner being announced on December 9, 2018. << That’s the day before release day!