What would Mary Bennet do?
From the title of this post, you may be able to guess the identity of one of my favorite characters in Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet may not get as much page-time as her sisters, and she doesn’t make any great contribution to the novel’s plot, but I like her.
Mary and I have a lot in common. We’re both shy and do not do well in conversations with strangers. Like Mary, I’ve been known to blurt out the wrong thing when I try to make small-talk, even with people I know.
We’re both the middle sister in a family of five; and we both like to tell ourselves that we play the piano much better than we actually do.
These are just some of the reasons I feel an affinity with Mary. We’re kindred spirits, and deep down I want Mary to be happy and successful in her life; because if Mary Bennet can have a romantic happily-ever-after, then there must be hope for me, too. Right?
Because Jane Austen wrote so little about Mary, I like to fill in the blanks regarding her personality. In my imagination, Mary has some excellent qualities that just need the right person or circumstance to help bring them out.
For example, I believe Mary is generous. She may be intimidated sometimes by people who possess all the talents she lacks, but she doesn’t begrudge them their gifts.
And I believe she, like all of us, has the ability to be brave. Despite her sometimes overwhelming shyness, I like to think Mary wouldn’t be afraid to speak up when she thinks an injustice is being done.
I had these qualities in mind for Mary when I wrote Mary and the Captain. It’s a Pride and Prejudice continuation that takes place at Netherfield a year after Jane Bennet’s marriage to Charles Bingley.
The timing is important. You’ll recall that at the end of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen tells us that Jane and Charles Bingley left Netherfield about a year after their marriage, and that “Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters,” Jane and Elizabeth.
And what of Mary? Jane Austen writes:
Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet’s being quite unable to sit alone.
Those circumstances got me thinking: What if Mary and Kitty had one last hurrah at Netherfield before Charles and Jane moved away? And what if there were other guests there, too, who will challenge Mary and force her to confront her greatest terror: speaking to strangers?
So in my book, I added a few more characters to the house party at Netherfield. Of course, Caroline Bingley must be there in order to manage and manipulate everyone into doing her bidding.
I also added two new characters who could look at Mary through fresh eyes: Caroline’s best friend, Helena Paget; and a Bingley brother, Captain Robert Bingley, an officer in the Hussars and newly returned from a protracted tour of duty in an exotic Eastern land.
When Captain Bingley first meets Mary Bennet, he views her in the same light as others see her: shy, bookish, and unremarkable. But when Robert learns an acquaintance is in danger, it’s Mary who encourages him to take action. And when he sets off in Charles’ racing curricle on a wild ride to the rescue, it’s quiet, reserved Mary Bennet who sits beside him, holding on for dear life!
Soon it’s apparent that Mary and Robert—who at first sight have nothing in common—are quickly becoming fast friends; and before she knows it, Mary finds herself confessing to Robert her hopes and dreams—dreams that are surprisingly similar to his own. Can it be that shy Mary Bennet and dashing Captain Bingley have more in common than they first thought?
I might as well tell you, I’m rooting for Mary Bennet in this story. There’s nothing I want more than for her to have that romantic happily-ever-after I mentioned earlier. She deserves a few adventures, a bit of confidence, and a man who loves her and thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world.
Just for you … I have an exclusive offer for Austen Authors readers! I’m excited to share with you the first four chapters of my new book, Mary and the Captain. Just click HERE to open your private “sneak-peek” page.
Meet Nancy Lawrence:
I first developed my love for the English Regency period by reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Since then, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing a novel or short story set during the Regency. I’ve been very fortunate to have had six full-length Regency romances and four novellas published.
In 2007 I discovered Jane Austen adaptations, and I’ve been a fan ever since. These delightful books add entertaining new twists to the stories I already love; and, of course, they always have a satisfying and romantic happy ending.
My latest book, Mary and the Captain, is a Pride and Prejudice continuation. The story contains all the traditional elements of a Jane Austen novel, but it has one thing more: redemption. I love to write about characters who learn something about themselves on their journey through life, and become better people for it.
Please visit me at www.NancyLawrenceRegency.com to learn more about me and my books; and follow me on Twitter at @NLawrenceAuthor. See you there!