No Cause to Repine was my first book baby. Was it the first story I wrote? No. Was it the first story I published? Also, no. How was it my first book baby then?
Well, it was the first time, I had considered that I might actually be sort of decent at writing. It was the first time I wrote a story that took more than a few hours to pen and required thinking and structuring. It was my first story with chapters. It was my first story with beta readers and editors. (Obviously, the published forms of earlier stories have had both, but they did not when I had posted them online.)
The story that is published as The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter, began as a short story challenge. It originally had a different title and was about a quarter of its current size. Letters from the Heart, began the same way. I had already finished writing and posting No Cause to Repine before I ever considered publishing my works. I couldn’t bear to put my baby up for critique yet, so I started with my shorter works. I revised and edited until they were novella length.
While I had no intention of publishing the entire time I was working on No Cause to Repine, it will always be dear to my heart. I feel as though I came into my own while working on it. My last post mentioned how Undone Business did that for me even more and the truth is, I wasn’t quite finished with NCTR when I started working on Undone Business. My beta reader even scolded me more than once for moonlighting on other stories instead of giving my attention to NCTR. Hey, even moms need a break!
NCTR opened up such a new world to me. I had been reading JAFF for about a year when I began working on that story. Now, that may not seem like long, but it had been an eventful year! I read a new story, sometimes more than one, every day. I began reading JAFF in January of 213 and ran out of available published works by March. I still refuse to tally up how much I spent during that time. I soon found the forums and spent a lot of time reading and commenting on them. I would check for story updates multiple times a day. By the time my daughter was born at the end of May, I stopped reading a story only long enough for the emergency c-section. I was reading JAFF even in my hospital bed with a sleeping newborn! I’m sure you’re going to shake your head and say that I should have been sleeping too, but the truth is that I had awful anxiety and insomnia and just couldn’t sleep. JAFF provided a much needed balm and escape during those months!
By the time I ran out of things to read and had scenarios in my own head shouting for escape, it was September and I had made it through the first few weeks of newborn madness. My first short stories were inspired by prompts but I think I kept with a certain framework of how JAFFs usually go. Usually, Caroline is super mean. Usually, Wickham comes between Darcy and Lizzy. Usually, Lydia does something stupid. Usually, Georgiana is a sweetheart. I could go on and on. I’ve been fighting against “usually” in my stories ever since.
It’s not that I take all those JAFF tropes and throw them out the window. I certainly didn’t do that intentionally in NCTR. It’s there in abundance. Like my first two stories, it began with a writing prompt. The monthly theme on A Happy Assembly’s playground was “compromises.” However, this time, I knew right away that the idea would be too long for a short story.
I had already loved forced marriage scenarios and found an opportunity to create one within events Jane Austen had already described. An innocuous description opened the possibility to me. When Darcy visits the Hunsford Parsonage and unexpectedly finds Elizabeth alone, he scoots his chair forward at one point. Then he pushes it back. Having a rug in my house that tormented me, I could envision all too easily how it might bunch up during those movements and later trip an unsuspecting person. Of course, timing is everything. Darcy fell into Elizabeth’s lap just when Mr. Collins enters the room and allowing him to be the typical caricature that he is in JAFF, I let him spew evil vindictiveness and threaten to spread it near and far. Lady Catherine soon got in a huff and things escalated from there.
It’s not a very unique set up for a compromising scenario. Obviously, there needs to be an over-reacting witness or it’s too easy to say it was an accident. Unless, of course, someone actually is doing something ruinous but I was far too timid to write such a thing then. I wanted to write a different sort of forced marriage scenario. I wanted Elizabeth to be more rational. I didn’t want her to despair as much as I often read happening. I didn’t want there to be countless opportunities for them to talk and clear their misunderstandings, as married couples are afforded hours of privacy together.
However, it’s not even that situation that I think had the most impact on my writing. After all, I write emotional Elizabeths all the time now. I can’t even remember exactly why I was looking things up, but I was doing some math and trying to figure out when Darcy was born, when his father died, and when Georgiana was born. I just wanted a dollop of historical context. I was curious about what else happened in the world during those years. I noticed each had some serious market catastrophes.
My undergraduate degree is in history, oh, and I was attempting to finish my master’s degree in European History while working on No Cause to Repine (which I didn’t finish but maybe one day I will). Pride and Prejudice is romantic, to me, but it’s also so much more. I jumped at the chance to use history in a way that made sense to me. I care far less about descriptions of gowns, food, and china patterns. Those would have been as boring as our own china patterns to the characters. I find those descriptions feel out of place because it pulls me from the story. I’m no longer the character just walking amongst the world. I’m the reader and the author is trying to tell me about this world that I’m not actually a part of. It’s seldom well-done and often is just a case of trying to show off research that doesn’t advance the story or the conflict. My intention with using the historical context of devastating economic turn of events was to weave it into the conflict. Why was Lady Catherine doing this? Why did she want Darcy to marry Anne so desperately? Why was this never brought up and dealt with before?
Below, is an excerpt from No Cause to Repine, which leads Darcy to ask more questions about Lady Catherine’s motives.
Fitzwilliam poured himself another glass and topped off Darcy’s. “Finish it. I mean it.” With a questioning glance, Darcy downed the brandy.
His cousin explained, “The day you left Kent, I overheard Lady Catherine mumbling to herself in her study. Anne and I knew of the accidental compromise and how upset my aunt was. We expected her to try to prevent the marriage in some way, so when we noticed her return, I managed silently to observe her.” He paused a moment. “William, I never knew she could scheme so brilliantly. It is a blessing she constantly rattles off her supposedly superior opinions, otherwise I never would have known what she was capable of.”
“What do you mean?”
“She hatched multiple schemes and chose to implement them all at once. Aside from attempting her verbal insults, she has issued an edict of silence on the matter and made Mr. Collins a messenger to Mr. Bennet, attempting to bribe the man into not recognizing the engagement.”
“Yes, we were at Longbourn in time to receive the letters. I do not trust she can enforce silence, and I do not believe she could truly honour the payment to Mr. Bennet…and he agrees with me.”
“There is more. She also sent a letter to Wickham.” Darcy’s eyes grew wide. “She believes if the Bennet reputation could be destroyed, you would not marry Miss Elizabeth and, therefore, would marry Anne instead. She still desires to keep the engagement a secret, but she charged him with seducing one of Miss Elizabeth’s sisters.”
“It is news to me that she would consult Wickham, but I already anticipated his desire to either seduce or elope with one of the girls,” Darcy calmly replied.
“She also intends to manipulate you with Georgiana’s reputation.”
Darcy jumped from his chair, and his cousin took a step backwards. “How does she even know?”
Fitzwilliam took another step back to give his cousin a wide berth before replying, “Remember she recommended Mrs. Younge? She must have contacted them both.”
Darcy stumbled back into his chair in disbelief. “How did she find him? And why target Georgiana?”
“Is it not obvious? She thought if Georgiana eloped, she could control you by hushing up the matter. If you recall, just after the incident, she began to claim Georgiana needed proper guidance for Society and attempted to show Anne as ideal to help the poor girl.”
Darcy seethed with rage but knew he needed to regulate himself to comprehend all of the information. “And she knew of Wickham’s whereabouts?”
“I do not know the answer to that question but I spent the last several days doing some research.”
“And what did you find?”
“Do you recall the year when she began declaring you were to marry Anne?”
“It was just after Mother passed. I was twelve, so it was 1796. Why?”
“Patience. And after your father passed?”
“She was almost frantic with pressing the issue, but I managed to show how overwhelming it was being such a young master. What does this have to do with Georgiana or her present business with Wickham?”
“Do you recall anything of the bank crisis in 1796?”
“I was obviously very young, but I do remember it some. If I recall correctly, it was caused by land speculation in America.”
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