I can’t believe Being Mrs. Bennet is finally finished! This book took me forever to write and more drafts than I can count. I lost the ending – the entire ending! – at least three times. Don’t ask me how. So many times I almost walked away from this tale, yet I always came back and slowly, very slowly, it finally materialized as a full-fledged, honest to goodness novel.
I am EXCEEDINGLY happy to see it in print.
Today I’d like to share an excerpt from the story and offer a giveaway. Details below. Here’s the blurb:
Can fandom go too far?
Alison Bateman adores Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. Within the book’s pages she finds escape from everyday strife, that is until she becomes one of its characters. Instead of the beloved heroine of the novel, Alison transforms into her silly and ineffectual mother, Mrs. Bennet. Not one to be idle, she uses her new role to try and curb the unruly behavior of the youngest Bennet daughter, never suspecting the consequences her meddling will have on the romance at the heart of the novel. A story of survival in a fictional universe, Being Mrs. Bennet is a lighthearted take on Austen’s classic tale.
Here’s the excerpt. A bit of context: this is the morning following a ball given by Colonel Forster. At it Alison started a rumor that Wickham has scarlet fever. It wasn’t a well-conceived plan, just something she blurted out in her desperation to keep Lydia away from him. Enjoy!
Sunlight attacked Alison’s eyes far too soon. She dragged herself from bed, stiff, aching, rebelling against the world, and pining once more for Advil. She could not see her way to believing that such acute pain could be anything other than poignant reality. No, this was no coma or similar episode of imagination. It hurt way too much.
Sarah stuffed her into yet another uncomfortable costume, supposedly appropriate for whatever time of day it was. Two o’clock! she exclaimed to herself upon forcing a glance at the decorative clock above the mantel. Never had she slept so late! Alison groaned aloud but submitted to the ordeal of having her hair brushed, pricked, and pinned beneath a lace cap: the Regency equivalent of the ponytail.
Downstairs, she found the entire family breakfasting in far too cheerful spirits. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat gingerly down upon her chair. Lydia was talking so quickly and loudly that it was several minutes before Alison noticed what she was actually saying, rather than the decibel at which it was said.
“An uncle came storming down from Liverpool, traveling with four horses, and snatched Miss King away within the hour. She had not the time to pack all her things, whichwill be sent on after her. La! How I wish I could have seen her face! After lording her conquest over us all these weeks, too! I doubt she should find anyone near so handsome in Liverpool, ten thousand pounds or no!” Lydia shrieked with laughter, which Kitty echoed with less enthusiasm while Mary and Mr. Bennet, peering over his paper, looked on with perseverance. “I shall say that very thing to Wickham when we next see him.”
“You might have to wait some time before being able to so slander Miss King,” Mary quipped, “if Mr. Wickham is under quarantine until the militia departs for Brighton.”
“Nonsense! I do think Mama made too much of nothing. He seemed hale enough to me, and I am sure we will see him in Meryton this very afternoon.”
“See him, you may,” Alison said tartly, “but you may not speak with Mr. Wickham. I forbid you to say so much as good morning to the man.”
“Not speak to Wickham?” Lydia echoed. “You want me to snub the handsomest man in all the regiment? Really, Mama! What has come over you lately?”
“An excellent question, my dear,” Mr. Bennet said, folding the newspaper and setting it aside. “What has come over Mrs. Bennet?” He gazed at her searchingly.
“Nothing has come over me!” she snapped back, knowing such antics were not in her favor but feeling far too irritable to care. “We should all be grateful to Mary King’s uncle! Clearly, he learned something that rendered Mr. Wickham exceedingly undesirable as a husband, else why would he behave so and subject his niece to the stigma of a broken engagement? Let us take it as a lesson well-learned and have nothing more to do with the man.”
A few inchoate protests resounded through the room.
“It would cause a great deal of trouble to cut a gentleman of the militia,” Mr. Bennet said.
“You should speak to Colonel Forster about his lieutenant’s reputation before letting your daughters make fools of themselves over him, or are you afraid of the great deal of trouble it might require to protect your children from a rogue?” Alison fumed in reply, finding gratification in the surprised look on his face.
“Careful, my dear!” he warned sardonically. “Do you wish to render the man irresistible? Stop talking up his charms, and your purpose will be better served.”
“I am in no mood for jokes! The man is dangerous. There is no more to be said on the subject. If you girls know what is good for you,” she went on in spite of herself, “you will stay well away from him.” Oh god! I’m really turning into her! Alison thought with a shudder, declaring aloud, “If nothing else, I will preserve this family from George Wickham. You may not walk to Meryton today, and we shall not be at home if he calls!”
“You heard your mother, girls!” Mr. Bennet declared with both finality and amusement as he rose from the table. “I shall weather the clamor from my library.”
With dismay, Alison watched him leave just as the volume of Lydia and Kitty’s now joint complaints rose to new heights, eventually reaching an apex at which they lingered for no less than an hour. Alison was thoroughly grateful when a visit from Lady Lucas heralded a change in pitch.
“Is it not odd to be without our elder girls on such an occasion, Mrs. Bennet?” questioned their guest in mournful tones. “To discuss a ball without the benefit of dear Mrs. Collins and your Miss Eliza to reflect on the follies of all! How I long to hear their witticisms on the subject! You cannot know the hardship of parting with a child through marriage. Maria will, of course, come home to me soon, but who is to say if I will live to see Charlotte returned to the neighborhood, other than for visits? And there is no knowing when or for how long Lady Catherine will be able to part with Mr. Collins. How kind it was of you to spare Miss Eliza for so long. What tales of Hunsford she will have to tell! I cannot wait to see them! Lady Catherine has been most condescending, and they have dined at Rosings quite regularly.”
So she prattled on. Alison narrowed her eyes at the woman in such a manner that had always shown everyone in a conference room or PTA meeting that she meant business, little affect as it seemed to have in Longbourn’s drawing room. Just as Lady Lucas was delving deeper into the subject of Mr. Collins’s last sermon, Alison interrupted her. “Just because we do not have the company of all our daughters does not mean we are so devoid of conversation to need speak of Hunsford, where they have had very little entertainment at all.”
“No entertainment!” Lady Lucas exclaimed, shocked at such a dismissal. “When they have dined at Rosings Park no less than eight times?”
“It sounds very dull, indeed! Nothing but Lady Catherine’s ill-founded pronouncements and dictates to listen to while we have all the gossip afforded by a ball, including the joint excitements of the militia departing and a potential outbreak of scarlet fever on our hands!”
“And Wickham being free of Mary King,” Lydia added.
“Of which we have heard quite enough. Is not the prospect of infection more noteworthy?”
“I saw Mr. Jones this morning,” Lady Lucas skeptically replied, “and he assured me that Mr. Wickham is perfectly healthy.”
“Well, I am sure that is a relief, but even as a passing concern, the fear of disease must be a more interesting subject than Mr. Collins’s sermons.”
“There is Miss King’s broken engagement.”
“Yes, Lydia. There is little doubt we could discuss Miss King’s deliverance from Wickham’s clutches, had we not already exhausted the topic.”
“Definitely. He was obviously after her ten thousand pounds, which would have disappeared in a hurry had the marriage taken place,” Alison said portentously.
“I do not know why you have taken such a sudden dislike to poor Mr. Wickham, whose praises you were full of when he seemed to favor Lizzy.” Lydia pouted.
“Elizabeth was lucky to be rid of his attentions before they could do any more damage.”
“What damage could dear Miss Eliza have possibly suffered at Mr. Wickham’s hands?” Lady Lucas laughed uncomfortably.
“Her opinion of Mr. Darcy, for one thing, which she has lived to regret,” Alison hastily declared, disliking the direction in which Lady Lucas’s thoughts seemed to be heading.
“Mr. Darcy!” everyone in the room seemed to exclaim at once, followed by a melee of inquiries.
Alison pressed her fingers to her temples, trying to keep the story straight. “They have been much in each other’s company in Kent, and Elizabeth’s letters indicate that she was mistaken in her previous sentiments regarding the man. I do not mean to make any more of it than that. Mr. Darcy’s behavior, though his demeanor is not encouraging, has always been that of a gentleman. Mr. Bingley, whose good nature is beyond doubt, is his close friend and admirer. What do we know of Mr. Wickham but that the respectable Mr. Darcy despises him, and Mary King’s uncle found him a highly objectionable suitor?”
“One should always judge a man by his character, not his charms.”
“Yes. Thank you, Mary,” Alison acknowledged with a sigh.
Lady Lucas stubbornly turned the subject back to Hunsford, and Alison simply tuned her out. She was watching Kitty, who sat gazing thoughtfully by the window, while Lydia sulked ominously in her chair. Sure enough, she resumed her clamor once Lady Lucas departed. Kitty, fortunately, seemed to have abandoned the cause, but as Mary was now thoroughly arguing Alison’s point for her, the din continued undiminished. It was several hours later when Alison sought escape through a back door, only to be waylaid by Mr. Bennet, who finally thought it safe to emerge from his library.
“Finding yourself rather unpopular, are you not, my dear?”
“You might have stood by me, rather than abandoning me to the task.”
“You were the one who decided Mr. Wickham was an unsuitable companion, and after being so encouraging to him previously.”
“And since when did the character of an eligible bachelor weigh so high with you?” he persisted.
“Since I realized the potential consequences of allowing our daughters to run rampant!” she said angrily.
“Was it not you who insisted on bringing Lydia out so young? Kitty too, for that matter.”
“I may have made mistakes, but I am at least striving to correct them, rather than hiding in the library all day long. Have you not considered your responsibility, as their father, to safeguard your children’s well-being?”
It was his turn to blush. “No one knows my shortcomings better than I, my dear. Happily, I am of a complacent nature and disinclined to indulge in self-rebuke for long.”
“Perhaps you ought to indulge it, Mr. Bennet. What good is being aware of your flaws if you do not seek to rectify them? Now, if you will excuse me, I am greatly in need of fresh air!” And she flounced off with a satisfying swoosh to her period gown and sought relief in nature, not to return until it was time to dress for dinner.
This giveaway is international. Please leave a comment by July 18th if you wish to enter to win one of two ebooks. The winners will be announced on July 22nd. Tell me what you would do were you to wake up one morning and discover yourself to be Mrs. Bennet.
Or buy the book today at Amazon.com.
As always, thank you so much for reading.