Friday Feature– No Cause to Repine

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. 

The current cover (November 2018)

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. 

The first cover from it’s release in May 2015

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? 

This is the first cover I ever made by myself! I think it fits the story well!

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.”

You can purchase No Cause to Repine at this link: 
books2read.com/u/38rKBL

Friday Feature– Undone Business

undone business.jpg

Undone Business was like a revelation for me. It started as a novella destined for a multi-author JAFF anthology that didn’t end up being produced. It was going to be named When Love Blooms, a title I later re-used. At the time, I really liked using phrases from Pride and Prejudice for my JAFF stories and so I changed it to Undone Business from this quote:

and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

The “what if” question in my head when I began was “What if Sir William Lucas never interrupted Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance?” Would they talk about more things? Would Darcy be as determined that Jane was indifferent to Bingley? Without Sir William’s words which made it sound like Bingley’s honor was nearly engaged, would Jane and Bingley have found their happily ever after? Would Darcy and Elizabeth avoid all the heartache and drama of the Hunsford refusal?

“Thank you for telling me,” she said softly. “I…I think I know you better now.”

“And I know you better now.”

“Oh yes, vain and simple-minded creature that I am.”

He extended his hand and nearly touched her face before dropping it limply to his side. “No, never that. Forgive me. I was angry at myself more than you. Your complaints are just. I have appeared haughty and arrogant, and I would never wish for you to accept me for anything less than love.”

Her heart actually ached as though it was pierced and in its pain it cried out to her that she should accept him now. Not today, her mind replied, everything is too new.

“Then…then do we say goodbye now?”

He visibly swallowed, but his eyes never left hers. “How am I supposed to give up trying? I know not how to go on. Loving you has become a part of who I am.”

She trembled, longing to give in to the love he still offered. “Nothing has changed, you know. My mother’s family still comes from trade. My nearest relations still behave poorly. Society may still shun me.”

“Nothing has changed,” he said with disaffected calmness. “Good day, Miss Bennet.”

He turned and walked away, leaving her alone and astonished. She had not meant to discourage him entirely, to make him think nothing had changed in her regard for him. She watched his back for a moment knowing she had lost her chance forever. Gently-bred ladies do not race after men and declare newly-born sentiments and demand they propose; nor do men of such pride and sense propose to a lady who so callously spurned their first attempt.

She looked down to the letter still in her hand and traced her name on the envelope. There was no reason to keep it now, she had heard all his confessions and believed him among the best of men. Refusing to weep she simply sat on the ground, not caring it was slightly wet from the dew still. She tore open Darcy’s letter. It simply said:

Forgive me. I love you.

She could contain the tears no longer.

For each story, I try to do something that challenges me. It wasn’t immediately clear what that would be in Undone Business. As the story progressed, however, I wondered what it would be like if I gave Jane Bennet someone else to marry. I went into the situation with quite a bit of prejudice. Did she really love Bingley? Can you truly only love one person in life? So often in literature and films, the person realizes it was never really love they felt for the other. Thus far, every non-Bingley pairing I had read was like that. Jane ultimately realized she had only loved the idea of Bingley. She recognized the flaws she had previously ignored and then the love goggles came off and she was free from regret of losing him and found someone better. Full disclosure: I’ve known a shocking number of women who fall in love with every man who passes their way. I’ve always internally scoffed that what they felt was not love. And, it might not be–but it might have been. The heart CAN love more than one person in a lifetime (although not at the same time–I do draw the line there!)

What sort of character growth does Jane have to go through to recover from genuine heartache over Mr. Bingley? Who could be her perfect match?

“Eyes the blue of forget-me-nots under a midsummer sky,” he said.

She furrowed her brow. The words seemed familiar. She must have read them in one of Elizabeth’s poetry or botany books.

“Jane Bennet, all grown up,” he remarked in something like awe.

“I do not believe we are acquainted, sir.”

He shook his head. “Yes, I would assume the passage of eight years would erase all memory of me. I am Isaiah Burton.”

Growing embarrassed as she could not recall him, she spoke hastily. “Mr. Burton, I am obliged to you. I apologise for delaying you. Good day.” She turned to leave.

“You still do not recall me, do you?” He followed after her.

Bristling that this stranger would think she should recall him, she stuck her chin out. “As you say, if we have met, you acknowledge it has been many, many years. I simply cannot recall every gentleman of questionable breeding I meet with.”

“With as many admirers you must have had, I am unsurprised. There was a time, however, when you visited your uncle in town when you did not find my breeding and manners so repulsive. Tell me, is that why you are still unwed? You did not correct me on your name, so I can only assume you are still single.” His voice sounded a mixture of offence and humour.

She turned to face him and in her seldom-felt anger felt more like Elizabeth than herself. “Because I am three and twenty I must be foolish to not have flung myself on any of the stupid ninnies I have met with? Oh yes, marriage to any of them would have been a delight over my present state. For certainly being in the care of healthy and doting parents and living with my three younger sisters, must be very pitiable. Or do you presume marriage is the only tolerable position for a young lady? As you are so interested in my own state, I assume you are also unwed yourself. Now, why has not a lucky lady ensnared you, Mr. Burton? For surely your manner recommends yourself to all.”

Having said her piece she turned to leave again. Her heart beat fast. She had never said something so unforgiving in her life. And she desired to flee before he had a moment to react. But was that…laughter? He was laughing at her!

“You have changed quite a bit, I see. The girl I knew was much too docile to have even a shred of the spunk for such a speech, even if you looked about as fearsome as a kitten. I shall have to amend my poem. You are no longer as mild as a lamb.”

Her steps ceased as she recalled his words. Isaiah Burton was the man who wrote her very bad poetry when she was but fifteen. Her aunt and mother were certain he would offer for her, but he never declared himself before leaving for a business trip and before he returned she departed again for Longbourn. When she returned to London the following year she had not seen him, but was not so affected by him to even ask her uncle what happened to his business friend.

I also usually have a research topic for each story. In Undone Business, it became the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom. Shockingly, Bingley inserted himself in that.

She showed him he could make decisions for himself, that he ought not to shy away from a confrontation and that he should not leave matters undone, for in the course of six and twenty years it was exceedingly tempting to cast off his lofty visions and allow younger and seemingly abler men finish this all-important task.

“Speech! Speech!” the crowd cried, and the gentlemen deferred to him.

He stood, with not a wine glass in hand, but a tea cup. “I thank you all, the friends young and old who helped in this worthy endeavour. You saw beyond the shallow fickleness of our lives of luxury. You looked beyond selfishness and saw suffering. And while even I was tempted to paint everything in the best light, there comes a time when all mankind must stand for truth and righteousness. And now…” he took a sip, “I very much look forward to enjoying my first taste of sugar in over twenty years, and it harvested from entirely paid labour. My solicitor will bemoan my pocketbook and my wife will bemoan my health, but I will drink it in delight and know the dignity our friends and equals in the Indies now have in earning wages for their work.”

He sipped again, and an applause broke out. He held up his hand. “But there is more work to do yet, my friends. Let us not leave our business undone. Tonight we celebrate and tomorrow we work.”

The group murmured their agreement and smiled in return. As he sat, he wondered what next would become the business of his life.

If you have never read Undone Business, I hope you’ll try it. It is a very different sort of story but one that is as close to my heart all these years later as it was while I wrote on it. You can see shades of the writer I continued to grow into. I would go on to write more about 19th-century politics. I have played with the Jane and Bingley pairing other times. I have grappled again with the question of eternal love.

Undone Business was like a line in the sand for me. I think of it as the book where I became my own writer. Personally, I nearly quit publishing after Letters from the Heart. It was before working on Undone Business that I determined I would make writing my career. I made that decision knowing I had several other stories. No Cause to Repine and A Sense of Obligation were already completed and only awaited professional editing. I had dozens of short stories. I had already started on Sufficient Encouragement, what has become the Loving Elizabeth Series, Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride, and many others that continue to wait their turn. Undone Business was the first story where I wrote it with the entire intent on publishing it and it amped up the pressure. Still, I am proud to say that I had the integrity to stay true to myself rather than worry about what would sell. As I said at the beginning of this post, Undone Business was a revelation.

Buy Links

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Desperately Mr. Darcy Anthology–includes Letters from the Heart, Undone Business, Sufficient Encouragement & The Secrets of Pemberley

 

Friday Feature–Letters from the Heart

LFTHEvery few weeks, I’ll be posting an excerpt from one of my back list of previously published stories. I tend to like to be organized in my head (even if I can never remember how many books I have out) so I’m just going in order. Maybe once that’s over I can think about themes or series or exciting things. Last month’s post was The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter. This week’s excerpt is Letters from the Heart. Have you read it? What did you think of it?

Here’s the (current) blurb:

The line between love and hate has never been closer.

 

Memories of Elizabeth Bennet torture Fitzwilliam Darcy during a winter in London. Resenting his love for her, he writes a cathartic letter intended to release his repressed feelings. When it is mistakenly mailed, there is only one thing he can do.
In Hertfordshire, Elizabeth’s mind returns again and again to the exasperating enigma of Mr. Darcy. Distraught and confused, she journals her hatred for the man but soon misplaces the letter never meant to be read.

When others presume an engagement, their paths seem sealed. However, rather than bringing about a marriage, their words of regret and anger threaten to separate them forever.

A stand alone novella in the Jane Austen Re-imaginings series, Letters from the Heart is for all who need a heartfelt Darcy and Elizabeth fix. Treat yourself to a romantic read from Rose Fairbanks.

 

Well, let’s give my faithful blog readers a treat and let you see Darcy’s letter!


Monday, December 9, 1811

Darcy House, London

 

Dearest, loveliest Elizabeth,

Are you shocked at the forwardness of my address? I should hope not, for I dearly love calling you Elizabeth. You will always be my Elizabeth.

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Have I shocked you again with my declaration of love? I assure you it is a true, constant love. I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun. 

How have you bewitched me? I have seen the beauties of the first circle and have remained unmoved until I was captivated by your fine eyes dancing not in candlelight, but in mirth and obvious joy. I have listened to the most exalted performers in the land, yet it is your performance that plays again in my mind. I have conversed with women educated by the finest masters at the best schools, but not one of them has your unique combination of intelligence, honesty, wit and sweetness. I know many women whom are lauded for their kindness, but I know none who would walk three miles after a storm to nurse a sick sister, or forebear Miss Bingley’s insults with such civility. I have been hunted in ballrooms since my youth, and you are the first woman of my acquaintance to refuse to stand up with me, and certainly the first to not seek my approbation. 

This must be the answer. I love you because you are genuine and unaffected. You do not simper or seek to flatter. The ladies of my acquaintance may be draped in the rarest silk and costly gold trinkets, and tout many so-called accomplishments, but they can only repeat my own opinion. They are not authentic. You are the most delightful woman of my acquaintance, the only real woman of my acquaintance, as the others are mere figments of fashionable society.

But to one of these insipid ladies I will have to shackle myself one day to serve my duty to my family. Your connections in trade and the improper behaviour of your family could never find a place in London society. Though I care little for it, I must protect my family’s position for the sake of my sister and my future children. And the ladies of the ton would be most unkind to you. I should hate to see you abused or regret a connection to me, though I rather think you would laugh at their folly instead.

In moments like these I must confess I would gladly cast aside my concerns about your family and connections, if only you showed me some encouragement. Instead you have fallen under Wickham’s spell of charming manners. Tell me, what is it young ladies find irresistible about the reprobate? His ability to gamble away three thousand pounds given in lieu of a valuable living—at his request—in the course of two years? Or is it his attempts to seduce young heiresses into elopement, as he tried with my sister? 

I should be angry with you. I should be angry that you are foolish enough to believe his lies, and foolish enough to doubt my honour. You destroyed the pleasure of our dance at Netherfield, which was supposed to offer me a lifetime of memories.  Instead you brought up that cad. But I cannot be angry with you. He has deceived many, myself included. I love you entirely, even if you suffer from some misjudgements. I know you by heart – your errors are just further proof of your affectionate character.

I should be angry that you cannot leave my mind for a moment. You have invaded my senses, my every waking hour and each night as well. I want peace and respite from this, Elizabeth! Yet I cannot blame you. It is my weakness that leads me to love a lady unsuitable for my standing. You are not charming, intelligent, witty and beautiful by design. Your enticements are wholly natural and intrinsic.

I am alternately angry and relieved that Miss Bennet does not hold my friend in the same esteem he holds her. If they had married, would I meet with you frequently? Would it be enough to simply keep an acquaintance with you and to satisfy myself with a few lively conversations a year? Would I be forced to see you marry another and bear his children? Or would I claim the honour? And should I try, would you deny me even as you have denied me a dance?

I have made a mess of things, Elizabeth. I cannot see myself through this, though I pride myself in my superior judgment. Since I cannot see clearly, I have run like a coward, hoping the distance would remove the need to find answers, but it has not. You are here with me, Lizzy. You are in my heart.

Perhaps this letter may serve as a balm, and I can regain my composure. Perhaps after this confession I will be able to close my eyes and not see yours laughing at me. It may be that after I conclude this note I will stop searching for your face everywhere I go, remembering your words, and faintly smelling your fragrance.

It may be. I pray it is. And yet my heart tells me there will be none but you residing in it.

Forever yours,

Fitzwilliam Darcy


What would you do if you read such a letter? What do you think Darcy does when he realizes it’s been mailed?

This letter is still one of my favorite things I’ve written. When I posted it on a forum, I had a reader say it reminded her of a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. I absolutely love that movie so I took it as high praise!

http://youreon.net/wonderful-life-phone-scene/

Buy links: (I am still loading the new cover on the other sites)

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