I’m excited to bring this back to the blog!
You can read other Friday Featurses here: Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
Sufficient Encouragement was published on April 19, 2016. At the time, I lived in Morgantown, West Virginia. It was the first big move for my husband’s job and my children were five and three. My office was my walk-in-closet. There was just enough space for my desk and a chair.
At the time, this story felt like a “hard labor” book baby. My other stories seemed to flow out of me easier. First, Sufficient Encouragement was the first of my “frankenstein” stories– meaning it was combined from other fragments of abandoned works. I had begun several works in 2013, and over the next two years realised that they were all on the same theme and should be combined.
The general starting premise of Sufficient Encouragement was, what would happen if Elizabeth overheard Caroline teasing Darcy about his interest in Elizabeth? How does the story change if Elizabeth determines that, for Jane’s sake, she can’t outright reject or offend Darcy?
Along the way, I grew interested in researching the Luddites. All I needed was to have a reason for Wickham’s regiment to be redirected out of Meryton, but I stumbled upon so much more. Here’s a post I wrote in 2016 about who Luddites were and how they fit into Regency history. You Luddite!
I also focused more on minor characters in Sufficient Encouragement than I had ever done before. The result was that I fell in love with them and didn’t want their story lines to end! I wrote two sequels to Sufficient Encouragement: Renewed Hope, which showed more background scenes for the minor characters that followed the same time line as Book One, and Extraordinary Devotion, which focused just on the romance for Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Belinda Crenshaw. Unfortunately, the sequels did not sell well and I have decided to pull them from publication so I can insert Darcy and Elizabeth more into the storylines. My goal is to get them back on the market this year. Of course, I thought it might happen in 2020 as well but the universe had other plans.
An important facet about Sufficient Encouragement remains relevant today, nearly six years later. Amongst the supporting characters I wrote, I created an original character that was a romantic interest for Caroline Bingley. If you’re one of the 2,590 readers who have bought the book to date via Amazon, or one of the thousands more than have read it via Kindle Unlimited or picked it up for free, or one of the hundreds that read it from other vendors, then you will already know about Jacob Truman, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s valet in the story; a black man.
We know Caroline as the meanie ice queen in Pride and Prejudice. However, I’ve experienced people who use those sorts of behaviors as a mask and a coping tool for deep hurts in their life. I wanted to discover more about what made Caroline tick.
I looked through Canon. What is important to her? Status, wealth, and family legacy/position. She definitely liked Darcy more for what he had than for who he was. Why would those things matter to her so much unless she could recall a time when maybe it wasn’t so set in stone?
I grew up in poverty. I had experienced bankruptcy as an adult. In 2015, I made the choice to supplement my family income and make writing a career. It’s what allowed us to move out of my father in law’s basement with my two children. Despite my husband’s salaried job, we could not afford rent without me working and any job I could find barely covered childcare–in which babysitters often quit and my children were expelled from one day care center due to their special needs. Pusblishing books kept my lights on and bought a reliable car. We were a one-vehicle family for years–including that summer when my husband began working in a different state Monday through Friday. There was no place within walking distance from our home, and I was stuck with my kids, praying they wouldn’t get sick and I’d need to take them to the doctor in the middle of the week.
Money meant a lot to me. The idea of losing money because of a poor decision could send me into a panic attack. I don’t think I was ever mean or cruel about it, but I could understand why it would become so crucial to Caroline if it had been scarce in her life at one point.
In the same manner, Caroline doesn’t want to sink “lower.” She has clawed her way to her position, and nothing will make her go back. I would write well into the night and exist off just a few hours of sleep. I pushed myself so hard to get books out and write, write, write. I did it because I didn’t want to sink to what I grew up with. I would do *anything* rather than go back to that and live on government assistance full time. I could totally empathize with Caroline’s drive.
Finally, I considered her family legacy. Clearly, her family means a lot to her. It’s actually a huge theme that does not get enough attention in the book. Every main character has feelings about their family’s legacy and their role to play in how it should persevere. Caroline has quite a bit of affection for her brother and sister. We are not told they were raised by guardians, so there is reason to believe that at least their mother lived throughout their childhood. She may have been close to other relatives too. A grandfather is mentioned as the man who began to amass their family wealth.
Well, there’s plenty of room to work with there. I knew I wanted Caroline to have softer layers that just needed to be exposed. What could be the opposite of her current attitudes? What if she once lacked all pretension and conceit? What if she were as sweet and open as Jane Bennet in the past? What if she had loved an unsuitable man that some in her family did not approve of? She may have lost her relationship with her family entirely. Austen has that theme in each novel. What sort of man would most illustrate that?
I decided a person of color would be one of the best ways to show that Caroline used to have a heart of gold. She was willing to forego the opportunity of marriage to an aristocrat or a landed gentleman and, more than likely, the chances of experiencing great wealth in her marriage. As a man of color, Jacob Truman would have been barred from many of the routes that could create wealth, and had no hope of ever being a noble. This testifies to the very great love she had for Jacob.
I was also just simply motivated to have a person of color in my work. There was unrest at the time regarding the murder of Freddie Gray. It seemed like including POC in my books was something I could do to help.
I began researching people of color in Georgian Britain. I decided to make Caroline’s long lost love to be Jacob Truman, the grandson of a freedman.
Jacob’s back story is full of historical details. His grandfather was previously enslaved and then purchased by an officer during the Seven Years’ War in the American Colonies. When the war was over, they returned to England, and Mr. Truman was freed. He stayed on as valet and eventually became a butler. Thanks to a small savings, his son became a shopkeeper, something that was common for children of upper-level servants. He sold cloth in Manchester and became acquainted with the Bingley family, proprietors of a cotton mill.
Mr. Bingley, the elder, came up with an invention that would make the spinning of cotton easier. He was not alone; many men came up with such designs. The problem was having enough money and wits to petition for a patent. Although a modestly poor farmer, he won some extra cash in a card game and never fell for a schemer making false promises. He managed to patent his invention and established a small factory. In time, the factory grew. As his son took over, they hired an overseer, and the new Mr. Bingley could focus on broader horizons. He befriended Mr. Truman, merchant of cloth. Enjoying the friendship between Jacob and Charles, Mr. Bingley paid for Jacob’s schooling.
During this time, Caroline and Jacob fell in love. However, he declined Mr. Bingley’s patronage for University and his prospects appeared bleak.
Earlier, I mentioned that aspects of what I wrote in Sufficient Encouragement are still relevant today. We have recently had discussions in the JAFF and Historical Romance world about the lack of diveristy represented in its characters. I had grown nervous about the reception of Jacob Truman and my ability to write his story. However, I have recommitted to writing POC and other diverse characters in my stories. Lady Darcy’s Bluestocking Club features a POC couple who befriend Elizabeth and a Jewish opera singer who instructs Mary.
Now, for an excerpt! My heart really goes out to this Caroline Bingley!
Four days later, Bingley sat in the breakfast room awaiting Caroline. He had called on Longbourn each morning before breakfast, and Darcy, Arlington, and Georgiana had come later in the day, but thus far Caroline had refused to come. He would have it no more. Jane would be his wife in time, and Caroline would not be allowed to treat her badly. Their privacy was assured. Louisa and Hurst always took breakfast in their rooms, and he had asked the others to do so as well this morning.
“Charles,” Caroline said upon entering, pulling him from his musings.
“Good morning, Caroline.”
“I am surprised to see you. Tired of Jane and Mrs. Bennet already?”
She gathered her breakfast items and frowned at the empty room. “Where are the others? I hope Lord Arlington is not ill.”
Bingley tossed down his napkin. “That is precisely what I wanted to speak to you about.”
“I will send for a physician at once!” She stood and moved to call for a servant.
“Arlington is perfectly well. Sit down.”
Although clearly confused, she complied. “That was a cruel joke.”
“It was no joke. You misunderstood me. Just now, you cared only for Arlington’s health and did not spare a moment to ask after Darcy or Georgiana. I would point out that you have known them much longer and have claimed deep friendship with them both.”
“What are you saying?” She would not meet his eye and instead stared at her coffee.
“You have to cease these grasping ways.”
“What?” She jerked her eyes away from the cup and met his.
“It is no secret you believe Jane Bennet beneath me. You treated her nicely enough when we were first in the county, but you were terribly rude to the rest of the Bennets.”
“They are intolerable!”
“No. They are—”
She interrupted him. “Do not dare make them into something they are not. They have no fortune, fashion, or extreme beauty. Their relatives are in trade.”
“So are ours!” Had she always been such a hypocrite?
“I know!” she screamed.
Bingley was no stranger to Caroline’s high dramatics, but she was louder and more forceful than usual with her last statement. Tears pricked her eyes, and he allowed her to calm.
“I am very aware that we have relatives still in trade. I know our fortune will never remove the stain of its source. It is our duty to marry better, to find a better position in society for our future generations.”
“Our duty to whom, Caroline? Mother and Father are dead. Do you know why they died so young?”
“If we had lived in a better area in London, perhaps they would have survived their illnesses. Or if we could have secured a more expensive doctor.”
“Do you truly think that? You think a street address protects one from illness? It did not protect Darcy’s parents.” At last, she was silenced, so he continued. “I believe they were weakened long before the fevers struck. They allowed no true happiness into their lives. Mother always worried about society and how to do better. Father was terrified of making a mistake; that is why he never bought an estate. They never followed their hearts. You know they barely tolerated one another.”
“So you would tell me to marry any man, regardless of rank? Do you not wish for me to have security? Women are entirely dependent on men. Tradesmen expect loving and doting wives; the upper circles allow women to lead their own lives.”
“You mean take lovers!”
She vehemently shook her head. “I would never dishonour myself so much, but it is the only way some ladies ever know love or happiness.”
She looked so sad, and at last, Bingley understood. “It would not be that way if you accept the right gentleman from the start.”
“Who is the right gentleman for me, Charles? Where are the lines of suitors you imagine? My dowry is impressive but not rare. Would you have me marry a fortune hunter? Any man who does not need my money cannot overlook my connections. I know I am pretty, refined, and educated, but it is not enough. It affords me no respect among men or women.”
Bingley slowly nodded, perceiving his sister’s thoughts. “But Darcy always treated you with respect.”
“I never thought I would have his love. But I hoped he could see the value of me. He never did, though. I always thought he was too proud and respected him for it, but that seems to be of no importance to him since meeting Eliza.”
“He fell in love, Caroline. There is no real logic behind it. He may choose to act on it because he feels she is worthy. Or he may choose not to act on it because he considers her beneath him, but there is no explaining matters of the heart. One day, a gentleman will fall in love with you as well.”
“I dare not trust in something as fanciful as love. Ladies do not have the freedom of choice that gentlemen have. Eliza may have refused the preacher, but if her father were dead and she was at the mercy of relatives, I daresay she would have chosen differently.”
His jaw dropped at a sudden insight as he understood what she did not say. “You were once in love!”
She gave him a sad smile. “Yes, I was Georgiana’s age, and Father had just died. You were obviously not of age.”
“Who was it? Did he pay you his addresses?”
“Do you recall spending the summer with our cousins? It was Fred’s friend, Mr. Truman. He was not of age, and we made plans to elope to Scotland. Then I overheard Mama speaking with our aunt about how she worried for our futures. My marriage to him would have brought nothing but pain to the family. He was to go into the army as an ensign; our income would have been small. We only could have managed with my dowry, and you know there was no guarantee Uncle Stanley would give it under such circumstances.”
Bingley reached for his sister’s hand and squeezed. “I never knew.”
“You were still a child.”
“We will both have love, Caroline. Jane will be the making of me. Her steadiness and sweetness of temper will guide me. You are no longer a young girl fresh from school with only university students as male acquaintances. Any gentleman you would meet now would have income, and you know, it is not impossible for me to add to yours if needed.”
Caroline gasped. “You would do that?”
“If it made you happy.” He shrugged. “So it would mean I buy a bit smaller of an estate. What is that compared to my family’s happiness?”
Caroline squeezed his hand back and shook her head. “Oh, Charles. Let us hope Jane is better with economy than you.”
Bingley laughed. It was as near a blessing as he could ask. “Say you will come with us today.”
She took in a slow breath but nodded. “Just allow me to finish my breakfast, and then I will get ready.”
Bingley smiled and walked to the door, but she called after him. “I really did worry about Lord Arlington, Charles. I am not as heartless as you think.”
He shook his head. There certainly was more to his sister’s heart than he ever knew.
We are all fools in love…
Determined to allow her sister a chance at happiness, Elizabeth Bennet will bear with anything, including Fitzwilliam Darcy’s meaningless admiration. Forsaking his world of pedigrees and expectation, Darcy fights his attraction for the spirited country miss. As they struggle to understand truth from fiction, can they learn to love and forgive?
Traversing from the groves of Hertfordshire to the drawing rooms of London to the complexity and danger of Luddite revolts in Yorkshire, Sufficient Encouragement kicks off the When Love Blooms Series. Grab your copy of the book that begins an unforgettable saga from best-selling historical romance author Rose Fairbanks.
Buy Link: Amazon