Friday Feature– A Sense of Obligation

Last time, I featured No Cause to Repine. You can also catch up on all my other features here: Friday Features

Today’s feature is A Sense of Obligation. I wrote this story after reading a solitary chapter of a work in progress on a fan forum site. The story was later taken down for violating board rules and I never heard about it again but maybe it exists out there somewhere. I can’t even remember it’s name or the author’s name. The story started with Darcy proposing to Elizabeth in Mrs. Collins’ drawing room. However, he’s even less coherent than in Canon. He tries to explain the burning desire he has for Elizabeth. He says some things like she would understand if he showed her. So he does.

Against her will.

Yep. Elizabeth is raped.

Oh, but she enjoys it!

And, of course, so did Darcy.

In the post #me-too age, I can hear everyone gasp. This was a few years before #metoo but I was repulsed just the same. It’s never okay for Darcy or any hero to force himself on a woman. While we’re talking about it, there’s no accident to rape. A man raping a woman doesn’t get confused. Even if she’s incapable of saying no for some reason, there is a host of other forms of communication which a fully functioning adult male or woman should understand. Good men don’t just accidentally rape women and then have to be sorry for it later. Rape isn’t about sex. It’s not about healthy sexual desire. It’s about power. It’s about wanting to have dominance over something. And yes, that pleases them sexually, but it has nothing to do with even the mechanics and hormones of lust. A woman might be dressed in revealing clothing and it turn on lots of men. They’re not all going to rape her because they have healthy boundaries. She’s not asking to be raped. She might very well be asking for consensual sex, of course. But don’t you dare victim shame.

End rant.

How can I condemn a story that also gave me some inspiration? I was intrigued by the psychological spot the author left the characters at. Darcy did something shameful but he enjoyed it and is going to get his way out of it: Elizabeth is going to marry him. Elizabeth is disgusted that she had an intimate encounter with a man she hates and yet she enjoyed it. Removing the rape scenario, it’s interesting psychology. I had to fix what I thought the author did wrong, which was the lack of consent. #sorrynotsorry, some of my first works were because I thought I could do it better than someone else. Don’t worry, I’ve had plenty of humble pie since.

While I wrote A Sense of Obligation, I was convinced I could never publish it. I didn’t think anyone would tolerate a story where Darcy seduced Elizabeth. I use the word seduction in the 21st century vernacular. Again, the author of the inspiration story used it as a 19th century term. Darcy “seduced” Elizabeth. In that era, a woman might have consented to have sex and the man was simply charming. Or she might have been forced. Either way, they said she was seduced.

Fortunately, during the posting process, I learned that many people loved the story and I also decided no story was unworthy of publication. Since it’s publication, A Sense of Obligation is my third highest grossing book and fourth highest selling. It was my fifth book published. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one that liked it and it was publishable after all!

In my scenario, Darcy thinks he charmed Elizabeth out of her virginity. The irony of that statement is intentional. We all know him to be about the least charming man alive. We also know at this moment in the story (it begins at Netherfield), Elizabeth is uninterested in Darcy and doesn’t think well of him.

Throughout the story, there are humorous situations. However, it’s continually dealing with darker subjects. I turn a few tropes on their heads. Rather than Elizabeth losing her inhibitions due to drinking too much, it’s Darcy that has lowered his guard. Instead of Elizabeth losing her memory of their encounter, it’s Darcy. No real compromise occurred nor were there any witnesses to their encounter. It’s a forced marriage only in their own minds.

Darcy and Elizabeth also discuss the nature of monogamy and the hypocrisy Society had in its demand that women remain virginal and virtuous while men were encouraged to take lovers. However, unwilling to entirely leave behind Society’s dictates, the two talk in circles about their encounter throughout the book, leaving them both with very flawed understandings of what passed between them.

I’m not quite sure if readers ever got the deeper issues. I don’t recall there being any comments or reviews about it. I’ve since come to terms with the fact that the majority of JAFF readers read stories purely for the Romance and don’t want to think too much about things. However, I loved writing A Sense of Obligation.

True to Darcy and Elizabeth’s miscommunication and unspoken subtext throughout the novel, the following scene is one of my favorites. They are talking about Greek gods and goddesses which would be common knowledge for the educated gentry of the era. However, they’re really trying to say so much more.

Elizabeth arched her brow. “You mean not even the master of Pemberley can control the weather or get his demands of the Lord?”

Darcy grinned. Elizabeth was clearly feeling better. “Nay, my dear. For I have it on good authority that an angel in Longbourn prayed for the sun as well, and if the Lord did not listen to her, then why should He listen to me, a mere mortal?”

She blushed again but replied, “I did not say I prayed for sunshine.”

“And I did not say I meant you! All Bingley can ever speak of is his angel!”

Elizabeth scoffed in disbelief at his tease. She playfully shoved him. “William!”

Darcy captured her hand and pulled her closer. Stroking her cheek, he said, “I cannot call you an angel, my alluring temptress, my lovely wood nymph. You are very much a flesh and blood woman, to my immense pleasure.”

He smirked, and Elizabeth could not help but notice his strange fascination with the word.

“No, I would not have you be an angel. You are a goddess…with all the wisdom of Athena, the beauty of Aphrodite, and the love of nature of Artemis. You will be my Demeter and help Pemberley’s harvest, my Hestia and make Pemberley a home, and my Hera, the goddess of goddesses, woman above all other women.”

Elizabeth could scarcely breathe. But soon enough she gathered her wits to reply, “Very well, sir. Now we cannot have you be Zeus, for you have admitted to not being able to control the weather. Nor could you be Poseidon, as floods and droughts are not conducive to farming. Might you be Dionysus as you have asked to give more parties? Certainly you are Apollo…god of knowledge.”

Darcy had to control the urge to cease her teasing lips. Dionysus was also the god of ecstasy and Apollo, the god of manly beauty. Was she saying what he hoped? Oh, that he could be her Eros, her god of love. And she would be his Psyche, his very Breath of Life.

Elizabeth was pleased with herself. She knew Darcy was not given to drunkenness, but there was no denying he had been half in his cups the night she walked into the library, and calling him Dionysus was quite fitting. And although he was intelligent, she poked fun at his singing with her, too. Apollo was also the god of music. If she were truthful, however, she would call him Adonis, the god of beauty…and desire.

Taking a deep breath, Darcy smiled at Elizabeth and placed her hand on his arm again. “Come, Elizabeth. I believe some of your relatives are to arrive this afternoon. On that note, I must beg you excuse me from calling as I must send an express to my own relatives about our wedding.”

The first cover for A Sense of Obligation. It’s not era-appropriate but I fell in love with that dress and the black backdrop. A forced marriage story is not all sunshine after all.

And here is the scene which definitely sold the book. I put it in the back of No Cause to Repine and had it on pre-order when NCTR released. A Sense of Obligation had 645 pre-orders in a little more than 60 days. I don’t know how that would compare these days in Amazon, but in 2015 that was pretty impressive–at least compared to my experiences at the time.

The first rays of sunlight filtered through the flimsy, but fashionable, curtains of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s bedchamber at Netherfield Park. Darcy groaned a little at the light and tried to ignore the signs of dawn in hopes of returning to his dream. It had been the most erotic and satisfying dream of his life; it nearly felt real.

“The best feeling ever,” he muttered to himself, only to have his sleep-addled mind reply, nothing could feel better than last night with Elizabeth Bennet.

The thought made him suddenly sit up in alarm, which made his head swell in pain. With a sinking feeling, he noticed his tangled bedclothes and felt a familiar sticky substance between his…bare…legs.

No, no, no. This is impossible, he thought. He was a gentleman; he did not importune innocent ladies, daughters of gentlemen, and Elizabeth Bennet had too much sense to succumb to any man’s seduction, let alone his. She did not seem to court his good opinion like most other ladies he knew. Darcy did not think she would attempt a scheme to entrap him, but neither did he think her in love with him or wanton.

He felt certain his earlier thought was the mark of a befuddled mind, caused by too much brandy from the night before if his headache was any sign. However, as he slowly disentangled himself from his bedclothes, he spied a red stain on the white bed linens.

Impossible! He told himself again. Surely, it was from an injury he unknowingly acquired. And then he saw it. A lady’s handkerchief embroidered with wildflowers, monogrammed ERB, with another blood stain.

He quickly checked himself for any sign of injury and found none. His senses became more alert as he recognised the lingering scent of lavender on his person.

“Dear Lord, forgive me!” he cried out in despair.

In the years since publication, I’ve had ideas of a sequel. Domestic Felicity should debut this summer. We will visit Darcy and Elizabeth, and their family and friends, several years into their marriage. The tagline for the book is: Love under fire. I’m so excited! Are you?

Blurb

One night changes everything.

After weeks of fighting his attraction, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes an irreparable move leaving no choice but to wed Elizabeth Bennet. Charmed by a gentler side of the haughty man, Elizabeth nurtures her growing affection for him. Unfortunately, Darcy’s faulty memory may destroy their marriage just as swiftly as it begins.

Universal Buy Link

Tuesday Quotes– Delighting in anything ridiculous

It’s a new year and so I am doing some new themes on the blog as others took too long and had low participation. So, we’ll see if sharing fun quotes does better!

I found this pic on Pinterest and don’t know who made it. I think it’s lovely! I’ve always liked this quote and I think it’s one of the best qualities about Elizabeth Bennet. It’s a quote very early in Pride and Prejudice and tells us so much about her character. I admit to also laughing at ridiculous things.

Fitzwilliam Friday– What’s in a Name Part Two

fitzwilliam friday

Last time, I posted about the importance of Mr. Darcy’s first name. Today, I’ll discuss what the name Darcy would mean to Jane Austen’s readers.

The most famous bearer of the Darcy surname was probably Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de (of) Darcy. The family is also called Darcy of Temple Hurst (ooh, spotted another P&P name) after the family seat near Selby, Yorkshire. Thomas opposed the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the rule of Henry VIII. In 1536, he was the protector of Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. Its location near the Great Northern Road made it an important stronghold against the revolt in that county in response to the King’s tactics. The “Pilgrims” as they were called were traveling south to take their grievances to the king. Darcy “surrendered” the castle to the rebels and was branded a traitor then executed.

He had previously quite distinguished himself in service for Henry. He was knighted in 1489 and rose in consequence until 1509 when he was called to Parliament and created Baron. Upon his execution, his lands were seized and titles forfeited. Ten years later, during the reign of Edward VI, his son, Sir George, was invited to Parliament as Baron Darcy, although some documents cite this as a second creation rather than a restoration of his father’s title. The title extinguished in 1635 as George’s great-grandson died without surviving issue.

Pontefract_Castle

Baron Darcy de Darcy was not the only noble line bearing the surname, however. The title of Darcy de Knayth was created in 1322 for John Darcy and issued to his heirs general meaning women could inherit. John became a trusted advisor for Edward III. He served as High Sheriff of Nottingham, Derbyshire, the Royal Forests, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. In 1320 he was an MP for Nottinghamshire. He served as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland three times, served as steward to the King, and later his chamberlain. After an expedition to Flanders, he was named Constable of Nottingham Castle and a few years later, the Tower of London. He campaigned against the Scots and the French and was chosen by the king to proclaim the victory of the Battle of Crecy in Parliament in 1346. Also of interest, his second wife was Joan de Burgh and they had a daughter named Elizabeth.

Another Elizabeth Darcy, daughter of the 6th Baron of Darcy de Knayth, was the great-grandmother of the William Conyers, first Baron of Conyers. William was the great-great-grandfather of Conyers Darcy. In 1641, he became the 7th Baron of Darcy de Knayth and the 4th Baron of Conyers. The barony of Darcy de Knayth had been in abeyance since 1418 and the barony of Conyers had been in abeyance since 1557. He was also given a new barony called Darcy of Meinhill. His son became the 1st Earl of Holderness.

François-Hubert_Drouais_-_Lady_Amelia_Darcy,_9th_Baroness_Conyers_(1754-1784)In 1778, the title of the Earl of Holderness became extinct upon the 4th earl’s death. His daughter, Amelia, however, inherited the Darcy and Conyers baronies. She married the Marquess of Carmathen, heir to the Duke of Leeds, and had three children. Officially, her inheritance was not confirmed until 1798, 14 years after her death. However, Amelia and her husband divorced the year after her father’s death allegedly due to an affair with Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron. They immediately married and in 1783 she had a daughter, Augusta. Mad Jack would go on to marry Catherine Gordon and father the poet, Lord George Gordon Byron. Amelia’s titles were inherited by her eldest son, George, from her first marriage. He also went on to become 6th Duke of Leeds. He became Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1802. Of Amelia’s father, the 4th Earl of Holderness, philosopher David Hume observed, “It is remarkable that this family of d’Arcy [sic] seems to be the only male descendant of any of the Conqueror’s barons now remaining among the Peers. Lord Holdernessae [sic] is the heir of that family.”

The titles of Baron of Darcy de Knayth and Baron of Conyers are still extant. The current holder is Caspar David Ingrams. After Amelia, the title has been held by two other women. This family line served as inspiration for the Darcy barony and the reasoning behind Baroness Darcy holding the title in Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride. Indeed, Darcy holds the family name Conyers as well.

Other Darcy baronies were long extinct by the time Pride and Prejudice was published. Baron Darcy of Nocton was created for Sir Philip Darcy in 1299 but his grandson died without issue around 1350. Darcy of Chiche was created in 1551. By special remainder, the son-in-law of the third baron, Thomas Savage (who had married yet another Elizabeth Darcy), was to inherit the title but he died before he could take it. His son, John, 2nd Viscount Savage and 1st Earl Rivers, inherited the Darcy barony in 1640. The barony continued with the Rivers line until a grandson of the 2nd earl who was a Roman Catholic priest inherited the title and died in 1735. The barony of Darcy of Navan created in 1721 for Sir James Darcy, younger son of the 7th Baron of Darcy de Knayth (mentioned above) went through his daughter by special remainder. His grandson, however, died unmarried at the age of 26 in 1733.

Thomas_Darcy,_1st_Baron_Darcy_of_Chiche,_after_Gerlach_Flicke.jpg
Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron of Chiche

Would Austen’s contemporaries know all this detail? No, probably not. I suspect they would know about the Pilgrimage of Grace. In her History of England, she wrote,

The Crimes and Cruelties of this Prince, were too numerous to be mentioned, (as this history I trust has fully shown;) and nothing can be said in his vindication,

While Austen is clearly being snarky as Henry VIII was seldom criticized during this era despite his egregious behavior, we can’t know for sure her real thoughts on the man. It’s possible, however, that she respected Lord Thomas Darcy and the fact that he acted out of conscience.

Readers of her era might also have known that one of the other baronies was at the time connected with a Dukedom. Perhaps Amelia’s notorious affair might have inspired Georgiana Darcy’s indiscretion. The Duke’s step-mother was a patron of writer Ann Radcliffe and The Romance of the Forest was dedicated to the duchess. She went on to become the governess for Princess Charlotte in 1813, so one can assume her influence was still important in 1812 although she was then the dowager. The current Duke would have been only a few years older than Mr. Darcy and had inherited the dukedom at age 24.

Tudors_chars_thomas-darcy_01_web
Lord Darcy in The Tudors, played by Colm Wilkinson

Above all, they would know that the Darcy name was very ancient and had come over with William the Conqueror. In case they didn’t, Lady Catherine tells them so.

Austen uses other famous surnames in most of her books. However, we must believe she chose Darcy for a reason. What could be the meaning of Darcy, especially when combined with the image of Fitzwilliam? It could point to Darcy’s honorable but questionable reputation. People will forever disagree over Thomas Darcy’s actions at Pontefract Castle. Our Mr. Darcy is a direct relation to an earl and if that’s not enough, his name suggests that he has some connection to a dukedom. Fitzwilliam Darcy should seem unbearably above Elizabeth in consequence and income. Just as the name Fitzwilliam would prejudice readers, so would the name Darcy. Just as Fitzwilliam would denote wealth but also liberality, Darcy denotes high status but also deeply held convictions in which honor was worth dying for.

The next time you reread Pride and Prejudice, I hope you’ll keep the information I have shared in mind and consider how that changes your view of our dear boy. Then, please, let me know what you perceived!

Theme Thursday– Opening lines

theme thursday.jpg

I bet you know a few of Jane Austen’s opening lines. Critics will tell you the first sentence of a novel is crucial, even in a world where readers are browsing in the book stores and picking up books at random less and less. Today’s online buyer will typically select the genre and category before they start browsing. Then the cover and the blurb will entice. Some buy without reading a sample, but many others do. Experts say that the purpose of the first sentence is to convince a reader to read the second and then the third and so on.

I would argue that reading the first sentence is important to begin the emotional journey the reader has with the characters. In the 21st century, characters is what sells a book, not the setting or theme.

How does Jane Austen hold up to that demand?

Sense and Sensibility: The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.


Pride and Prejudice: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.


Mansfield Park: About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.


Emma: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.


Persuasion: Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.


Northanger Abbey: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.


Lady Susan: MY DEAR BROTHER,—I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending some weeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to you and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with.

Well, if you can see that very few of Austen’s books begin with anything that connects to a character, let alone the protagonist, what is the purpose of her opening lines?

sense_sensibility

Sense and Sensibility rapidly opens with the death of the patriarch and the history of wills which leaves the females in such dire straits. We know they will soon have to leave Norland–unless their brother asks them to stay. Elinor then meets and falls in love with Edward and there’s a shred of hope that the distress of losing their father will lead to an unexpected blessing. The real turning point in the story happens when they leave Norland. There’s no going back. Life is going to be nothing like it was before. In this case, the opening sentence sets up the old world and lets us know that it is likely to forever change. Austen suggests the conflict of the story (how do Elinor and Marianne make their way in the world once they are no longer privileged and sheltered at Norland?) from the very beginning.

colin-firth-as-mr-darcy-in-pride-and-prejudice-bbc-adaptation-1995-lizzyNethDanceClear006_0001

Again, in Pride and Prejudice, we get the crux of the conflict immediately. Whoever thinks any wealthy unmarried man must be interested in marriage is full of both pride and prejudice. Suggesting it is a universal truth tells us that our characters will be working in a world where this is the basic assumption. We can only expect that any sensible character we would bother liking would reject such a ludicrous idea. However, what will be the ramifications for rejecting such a societal truth? In the end, the interesting fact is that while Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t exactly husband hunting, did she ever consider that a man might be tired of the game? Did Mr. Darcy ever consider that not every lady was playing it as well? Both of them claim to reject the “truth” presented at the beginning and yet they unintentionally prove it.

754d3edd56260451

Mansfield Park gets trickier. Is there a conflict introduced in the first line? No. Is a character introduced? Yes, but she ends up being no one of consequence to the story. In fact, she’s arguably the character with the least impact. The thought of that never ceases to delight me. What is Jane Austen attempting to tell the reader with this beginning sentence? One, it was unlikely that this Maria Ward would obtain the status she did. Very few people live as an island. No, they have relations. These lower relations are now thrust into a baronet’s orbit. We must read the second sentence to gain more information.

She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage.

Ah. Yes, the relations we previously guessed at are sisters. Sisters that are just as beautiful as the first. Did they marry well? If they did not what was it about Maria Ward that gave her advantage? What became of these sisters? We are told this whole thing happened about thirty years ago so what does all of this mean about the present? It is not exactly a gripping opening but does the job in making the reader ask questions and need to read to find the answers.

59f5e56046b14da399efc454c7ecb4ac--emma-woodhouse-emma-love

Jane Austen has famously claimed in a letter that no one will like Emma Woodhouse as a heroine except herself. Here we do meet a character. However, we are told she has nothing to vex her. She seems to have every blessing in life. Let us recall that the typical heroine of the era was more like Fanny Price–innocent but at a disadvantage in some way. The Dashwood sisters and Elizabeth Bennet both suffered financially compared to those that would judge and demean them. Now, we have a woman with every reason for joy and contentment. We can expect she will either have all of that taken away or should be a paragon of virtue with an endlessly charitable heart so we won’t hate her. However, that’s not the Emma Woodhouse we get. Instead, we are told in the fifth sentence that Emma has real evils. She gets her own way and thinks well of herself. The reader can see these are unlikable traits and the added description of pretending as though they are great flaws prejudices the reader even more, in my opinion. What will make the reader continue? Curiosity and a desire for the lady to get her just desserts? Kind hopefulness that even a rich lady can learn to have a more charitable view of the world? We are told what to think about Emma…and yet we are not so certain. The uncertainty impels us to continue. This fits all the more as some literary critics consider Emma the precursor to a mystery novel. The central question in that framework is “Who can Emma marry?” whereas the opening sentence makes us wonder “Who is Emma really?” People are always more than the sum of their appearances to others.

vlcsnap-00067.pngIn Persuasion, we meet Sir Walter Elliot and how well he thinks of his family legacy. Personally, reading the sarcasm about the baronetage hooked me as a reader. I love a book that begins by poking fun of someone or something. I dearly love a laugh! As the chapter continues, we learn that Sir Walter’s family lacks a crucial thing: an heir of his body. We also learn the youngest daughter has married but the two elder ones have not. We then learn that the family is in debt and will need to leave this ancestral home and pride of place. While we do not understand what the conflict of the story is yet, we know the cause of it is this misplaced pride. Ah, but the family is going through a change. Surely they will amend their views and whatever it has cost the heroine will be reversed! Do you see where Austen sneaks in the fact that it won’t be as simple as that? Cleverly, by exposing Sir Walter as so ridiculous in caring about his position in the world, Austen tells the reader that merely reversing the family’s position will not fix the problem for any sensible person doesn’t care about that. It won’t be enough for someone to see that the heroine’s family must no longer have their pride–even if they were capable of letting it go–for that was not the root of the problem on the other side. She slyly tells us there is a dual conflict. Once we get to know Captain Wentworth, it’s easy to see how that’s the case.

na2007_henry1w

I would not be the first to point out that the traditional heroine of a gothic novel looks more like Eleanor Tilney than Catherine Morland. Austen laughingly points this out right away. Well, if Catherine is not the traditional heroine then who is she? Like Emma, we are introduced to the heroine right away and told what to think about her. It is no wonder that Austen’s working title for this story was Susan and then Catherine. Unlike Emma, we are given a sympathetic view of Catherine. We can’t help but want her to do well in life, even if she doesn’t so desperately deserve it as other heroines do. I think in this way, Northanger Abbey fits as the most modern story. Today’s books quickly introduce the protagonist and convinces us why we should care about him or her. As the story continues, we can see how Mr. Tilney has what Catherine lacks in life and how she can lift his spirits and encourage his sense of humor while preventing him from falling into cynicism.

acbc81-20160526-stillman02.jpg

Lady Susan‘s opening line immediately exposes her selfish and manipulative way. The reader instantly wonders how this family will survive her visit and what this woman will continue to attempt to gain from it.

I have postulated that present-day readers prefer to learn about one of the protagonists . Experts have claimed that the opening line makes the reader continue reading. In some cases, Austen’s lines expose the conflict (S&S, P&P, P). In others, she introduces a character (Emma, NA, P, LS). Another possibility is exposing the setting or theme of the book (S&S, P, LS). Mansfield Park is Jane Austen’s least popular book and by examining the opening line, we might see why. Although it compels the reader to continue to make sense of the importance of the first line it does not introduce a character we can have an emotional reaction to. It does not present a conflict or theme. It’s worth noting that many critics think Mansfield Park is Austen’s greatest work but I would argue that it is also her most subtle. The indifferent beginning continues throughout the work and the true meaning of Austen’s themes, the conflict, the very reason why Fanny is the heroine and not one of her cousins or Mary Crawford all remain mostly hidden in the same way someone may miss the importance of the book’s opening line.

9780307390790.jpg1pppeacock.png

In conclusion, opening lines are pretty crucial for a book. However, a book may be well-written without having a strong opening–if that serves the author’s intent. I like to think that Jane Austen was not surprised when fewer people enjoyed MP than they did her other works. I imagine she knew not many people would see all her deeper meanings and she wanted them to remain hidden as she opened the story in such a way. On the other hand, to become a popular book, you must have a memorable opening. Critics may think Mansfield Park is the superior story but more readers will know Pride and Prejudice‘s opening line.

Fantasy Friday– Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters, Chapter Six

I know I am dealing with a large cast of characters right now with the addition of the Tilneys. Do you think referring to the young people by their first names (Caroline, Henry, Charles etc.) would make it easier to keep track of everyone?

At the close of Chapter Five, Kate had a vision of the the Netherfield group dining at Longbourn.

Previous Chapters: Prologue to Chapter Four / Chapter Five

morgana yellow

Chapter Six

 

“What a lovely home you have,” Mrs. Tilney said to Mrs. Bennet in the drawing room after dinner at Longbourn. “Did any of your daughters assist with the meal?”

Mrs. Bennet attempted to answer civilly, but Elizabeth could see her embarrassment at what must be an obvious slight. Mrs. Tilney’s eyes scanned the room as though guessing the age and cost of each item. She had frowned at the dated appearance of the dining room and the less than perfectly polished silverware.

“No, the girls have nothing to do with the kitchen.”

Elizabeth wondered if smoke was coming out of her ears yet. She recalled her history lessons with her father. Gentry magical folk believed menial work beneath them in all forms, even magical.

“Oh, pardon me. I do hope I did not offend you with the question. Lady Lucas boasted of her daughter’s meat pie.”

Elizabeth had a hard time believing Mrs. Tilney was genuine, but Jane seemed unaffected by any feelings of pretension in the room, and surely she would have sensed the truth. It was their first meal in company since the return of their powers and also their first meal with their new neighbors.

“It is truly an honor to be here,” Eleanor Tilney said.

Caroline Bingley added, “Oh yes, we have heard much of the Bewitching Sisters.”

“Caroline, you must be careful with your words!” Mr. Henry Tilney said as the gentlemen entered. They had been ushered into the library for a discussion as soon as they arrived.

“Do you sense it is dangerous to speak of our magic now?” Kate asked and glanced about the room.

“Of course not,” he replied to only Kate as Caroline continued to talk with Jane. Sensing that their conversation was more interesting, Elizabeth focused on it.

“Caroline must mean that she has heard of you frequently. However, she misused the meaning of the word much. It implies volume and words take up no space at all, certainly not any space at all in the minds of most people.”

Kate chewed her bottom lip, confused by his wit and wordplay. However, Elizabeth smiled. “And then some people speak so little because their thoughts threaten to overflow. Such must be the case with you, Mr. Darcy,” she said as she turned to face the gentleman.

“Not at all,” he said so coldly the conversation died.

Turning her attention from the irritable man, Elizabeth took a sip of wine as she watched Jane and Mr. Bingley across the room. He had gone straight to Jane’s side and had not ceased smiling at her the entire evening.

Just like Kate’s vision, Mr. Hurst’s face was indeed reddened from his after-dinner port while Mr. Bennet and General Tilney talked in private conference. Unable to make out their words, Elizabeth’s eyes wandered to Mrs. Hurst. She said little and instead played with her elegant bracelets. Elizabeth had the feeling Mr. Hurst was of more fashion than fortune.

When Elizabeth turned her attention back to the assembled group, she found Mr. Darcy staring at her. He did not smile or talk yet had seldom looked away from her that evening. Annoyance festered in her heart and her palms prickled with sensation. She struggled to control her magical impulses under his critical gaze. Nearby, Elizabeth heard Kate speaking with Miss Tilney on the subject of books.

“Did you read the latest volume of Mr. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” Miss Tilney asked.

“Oh, no. You will have to ask Lizzy her thoughts on that. Papa makes me read such things, but I can never make much sense of them. Do you not find it difficult to credit stories of what happened so long ago when they are reported with as much certainty as someone may describe what happened at last week’s ball?”

Internally, Lizzy sighed. Kate was attempting to apply Jane’s empathy lessons to the broader subject of history.

“It is hardly likely a historian will admit to an inability to accurately give his information,” Mr. Tilney countered.

“Then are we the fools to believe it when everyone can find fault with Mrs. Howes’ report of the order of events of the last ball or the accuracy of the gown worn by Mrs. Ridgeway?”

You dislike invention and embellishment?” Mr. Tilney said with a raised eyebrow.

“Not at all. I enjoy novels particularly.”

“The former Mrs. Burney?”

“Mrs. Radcliffe. I’m desperate to reread The Italian, but Father has been reading The Vision of Don Roderick this week. I think The Mysteries of Udolpho is the nicest book in the world, but I suppose you have never read it.”

Mr. Tilney looked exceptionally amused. “Why do you think that?”

“Everyone knows novels are not important enough for gentlemen, they read other things.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brows. Where had Kate come up with such garbage?

“I have read hundreds and hundreds of novels. I have many years of advantage over you if we would ask one another which books we have read. Now, Udolpho had me so enthralled I could not put it down even to spare five minutes when Eleanor was called away. I would not say it is the nicest book, however.”

Kate looked by turns pleased and annoyed. “Well, why not? If you liked it so much can you possibly like something else more?”

“Perhaps I may find one I do love more later, but I assumed you meant the binding was the neatest.”

“The binding!” Catherine cried in confusion.

Miss Tilney laid a calming hand on Kate’s arm. “Henry is teasing you, as he does with me. He has very demanding standards on word usage.”

Elizabeth found the conversation interesting. She had not supposed before that Kate could hold her own in such nonconventional topics. Elizabeth also understood why Kate had enjoyed Mr. Tilney’s humor from the night of the ball. More than anything, Elizabeth was pleased with Miss Tilney for easing Kate’s nerves when she grew too flustered and anxious. She quite reminded Elizabeth of Jane.

Mr. Tilney waged on. “Nice used to apply to a person’s dress or feelings, a sense of refinement or neatness and now it is used for everything.”

“Pay him no mind, Miss Morland. Come over here with me, and we may talk more about other books.”

Elizabeth joined them. Miss Tilney and she talked about drawing, while Kate listened with ignorance. She knew nothing on the subject, and it was only after several minutes of silence from her younger sister that Elizabeth realised she ought to have steered the conversation to a topic Kate could have joined in. Feeling as though she bungled things, Elizabeth was relieved to see Jane motion them over. Along the way, Mr. Tilney sidetracked Elizabeth but allowed Kate and Eleanor to reach Jane.

“Miss Morland tells me you enjoyed Gibbons’ The Fall of Rome?”

Elizabeth agreed and allowed him to ramble on for a few minutes while she tried to overhear the conversation next to her. Jane would admonish her for eavesdropping, but it was the only way she could ever learn the truth of things. Jane filtered things too much.

“Are you well?” Kate asked Jane.

“Perfectly!” Elizabeth could hear the smile in Jane’s voice.

“You have not been speaking.”

“I am afraid that is my fault, Miss Catherine,” Mr. Bingley said.

“Mr. Bingley is a telepath and can effortlessly read my thoughts,” said Jane.

“No more than you can discern my feelings!” Bingley replied.

Elizabeth smiled to hear Jane praised so ardently, even if she knew Jane likely blushed. Encouraged by Elizabeth’s countenance, Mr. Tilney laughed a little too loudly at his own remark. It broke through the conversation next to them. For some reason, Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn across the room. Mr. Darcy scowled at her and Mr. Tilney. Then Jane and Bingley jumped in fright beside her. Were they afraid of Mr. Darcy?

“I fear my friend has had enough company this evening,” Bingley murmured before excusing himself.

Tilney followed, leaving the three sisters watching the gentlemen. Jane’s eyes followed Bingley with an expression of concern. Before much longer, the Netherfield family said their goodbyes and departed.

“I dare say that went differently than you thought, Kate,” Elizabeth said.

“Indeed.”

“We had better return to Mama,” Jane directed her younger sisters to the drawing room but then held Kate back.

Elizabeth hovered in the doorway out of sight and heard Jane whispering to Kate. “She was too angry at Mr. Darcy the entire evening to notice Mr. Tilney.”

“And Mr. Tilney?”

“Despite what Mr. Bingley said I cannot seem to discern the feelings of any of the gentlemen, or any of the Netherfield group at all, except when Mr. Darcy seemed upset by Mr. Tilney’s laughing. I suppose it is not necessary since we know they are to safeguard us.”

“I wish we knew more about what we are supposed to eventually do.”

“Do not borrow trouble, Kate. We shall likely know before too long. Already, so much has changed.”

Feeling somehow responsible for the sad and far away sound in Jane’s voice, Elizabeth stuck her head out the door. “The next time you want to wish me away just to whisper in the hall you might say it.”

Jane and Catherine shared a smile before following Elizabeth to the drawing room.

 

*****

 

Before too many days passed, Mrs. Tilney returned the civility and asked the Longbourn family to dine at Netherfield.

“I cannot think of a better way to pass the evening,” Kate said in the carriage.

Elizabeth huffed. “I am sure you and Jane cannot for not only are you both nicer people, but you have the attention of charming gentlemen. The only people who notice me are sour. Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy both stared critically at me the entire night they dined with us.”

“Perhaps they saw something worthy of admiration,” Jane said.

“If your powers worked at all on them, you would know how incorrect that is.”

“You are always so ready for a fight,” Kate observed.

“I suppose it is the fire in me!” Elizabeth said with a smirk.

“I trust you girls are not so silly as to be distracted by a couple of bucks and forget the seriousness of your powers,” Mr. Bennet cautioned from the other side of the carriage.

A pout formed on Kate’s lips. “Our days are filled with instruction and worry about what it means that our powers have returned. General Tilney’s reappearance has set all this in motion. Can we not enjoy ourselves when in their company?”

Mr. Bennet opened his mouth to speak, but Mrs. Bennet placed a hand on his arm, forestalling him. “Practicing your powers on those you know to be friendly can serve you when you must practice on your enemy,” she said.

Jane cried in horror, “Practice on them!”

“Do you think they have not used their powers on you?” Mr. Bennet asked.

They pulled up to the house, halting the conversation but Elizabeth wondered at the sense of civility and propriety in the magical world. Mr. Bingley and Mr. and Miss Tilney were kind enough, but the others Elizabeth could not like.

Mrs. Tilney had ordered a lavish meal with several courses. The furniture was upholstered in the finest silks, plush carpets draped the floors, and gold filigree was inlaid on most of the furniture. Elizabeth saw it as a pompous and vulgar display, flaunting General Tilney’s greater wealth. Little was said, at first, until Mr. Bennet cleared his throat and gave each of his daughters a pointed look, a clear reminder of his earlier words.

Mr. Darcy, sitting next to Elizabeth, commented on the meal. Unsurprised that he would enjoy the grandiose atmosphere, she gritted her teeth before replying and felt her palms itch. It occurred to her, she never wondered if he had magical powers, convinced as she was that he was aware of her own. He must be a fire wizard like her father for he always excited her powers. Amusing herself, she stared at a candle at the table, and the flame grew. Wondering if she could also snuff it out, she attempted to do so and was pleased to see the light diminish. Mr. Darcy chuckled beside her.

“I dearly love a laugh. I hope you will share your amusement,” she said.

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips at the Shakespearian quote. “You would assign me the role of Portia?”

“Do you not fight against the darkness?”

Elizabeth wondered if he had ever fought against dark forces. Instead of indulging her curiosity, she chose to joke. “But you believe I do so through trickery, as Portia disguised herself as a man to argue in court to save her husband’s friend?”

“I would not dare to know the arts of a Bewitching Sister.”

Elizabeth frowned as the flames in the room grew. Determined to ignore him, she turned her attention to her food. Darcy said nothing more, but the temperature of the room seemed to steadily drop. Elizabeth glanced at the fire, it had gone out, and ice frosted the windows.

Looking at the other occupants of the room, most of them showed signs of feeling cold. Jane’s teeth chattered but she was too polite to say anything. Anger flared in Elizabeth. Why did Mrs. Tilney not remove them from the room? As she thought about it, the fire on the far wall suddenly surged forward. Knowing it would still take some time to rewarm the room, Elizabeth was happy to see their hostess nearly immediately on her feet.

“I think if our guests are amenable,” said Mrs. Tilney, “we ought to adjourn to the drawing room for our dessert.”

The Bennet family nodded their heads in agreement, and Mrs. Tilney stood to direct the ladies to the drawing-room and allowed the gentlemen to remain. They would have dessert and coffee when the men joined the women, which the gentlemen assured them would not take long given the temperature of the room.

“Miss Bennet,” Miss Bingley joined Jane on a sofa, “my sister and I were simply amazed to hear of your story. Such times we live in! But tell us, dear, are you reconciled to our world?”

Always reserved in the company of others, Jane dissembled. “My father is a great teacher. Our progress is very rapid. We did have our powers as children and memories of such were restored.”

“How brave you all are!” Mrs. Hurst said.

Miss Bingley turned her head toward Elizabeth and gasped. “Miss Eliza! You are so flushed! Are you sure you should be so near the fire?”

“Are you ill, Lizzy?” Jane asked.

“I feel perfectly well. You look pale, dear.”

“She likely caught a chill while we were eating. The room gets terribly cold. That is why mother suggested we remove to the drawing room,” Mrs. Hurst explained.

Elizabeth understood as she struggled to control her emotions around Mr. Darcy, that she had not felt any cold at all. “Allow me,” she said, and the flames grew.

Elizabeth sat next to Jane, and the ladies discussed the impending winter weather. After several minutes, Mrs. Hurst excused herself to speak with her mother. Miss Bingley and Jane conversed pleasantly while Elizabeth found herself watching the door and awaiting the entrance of the gentlemen. Internally laughing at her folly, she shook her head and allowed her eye to rove over the extravagant room. The pianoforte likely cost more than the furnishings in Longbourn’s entire first floor. In the corner, a maid refilled coffee and teacups through spell work. Elizabeth had the uncomfortable feeling that she no longer understood the rules of the world around her. Mr. Bennet’s suggestion to practice magic on their friends confused her. Obviously, her power would be too dangerous to do so but others might. Indeed, even Jane had already attempted to uncover the feelings of the Netherfield party. It just seemed so… intrusive. The Jobbard world would never welcome it.

Elizabeth felt her palms prickle with sensation again a minute before there was noise at the door and the gentlemen returned. Mr. Darcy entered, catching her eye immediately. She held his gaze and lifted her chin. Magical world or not, she would not be ashamed of whatever he found to criticize.

Thursday Three Hundred– Hidden Hearts

I’m going to try something new on the blog. I’m going to do a continuing story for Thursday Three Hundred. Each post will be at least 300 words. The full story, however, will be a short story of about 10,000 words. I will probably later publish them as a collection of short stories.

Scotts Grotto in Ware, Hertfordshire is a real location. You can read a bit more about it here.

Rose Letter

Darcy held back a grimace as the carriage swayed. How in the devil had he Bingley talked him into this? An excursion to nearby Ware to visit a fairy grotto. Fairies of all things!

The Bennet carriage did not have enough space to carry all of them comfortably, and so Bingley offered space in Darcys. He could either convey Mrs. Bennet or the unusual man visiting who was their cousin and the estate’s heir, Mr. Collins. Just when Darcy was beginning to conclude it was better to have the devil you know than the devil you do not know, Mr. Collins told Elizabeth he hoped to spend time alone with her in the caverns. Before Darcy was fully aware of what he was doing, he had invited the man into his carriage. Miss Bennet, of course, was also asked–since she was still recovering from her cold, Mrs. Bennet said when she all but threw her daughter into the coach. Darcy wondered at the propriety of one maiden and three gentlemen in one compartment. Undoubtedly, it was on the tip of Caroline’s tongue when she began to argue as Mrs. Bennet climbed into the Hurst carriage. However, Darcy could not bear riding with either lady in addition to Collins. He rapped the ceiling of the coach to pull forward before the others were entirely loaded up.

Arriving at the grotto, it was as awkward an experience as he had expected. He was too tall for most of the rooms and had to continually duck his head. The light was dim and the worst of the Bennet females shrilly oohed and ahhed over every shell decorated niche. The middle one pontificated that she felt a communion with God here.

Darcy had to get away. There were air vents, but with so many people cramped in small quarters, he felt trapped. His sole relief was that Caroline hovered near the entrance, refusing to go any further than where the sunlight shone.

Following the walls, Darcy walked through the corridors until he could hear nothing. He actually liked grottoes and had visited a few near Pemberley as a child. He never would have supposed Hertfordshire had such a thing but trust Lydia Bennet to entirely insist upon the idea of Bingley visiting the landmark and the Bennets accompanying him.

Rounding a corner, he found another opening. Scott’s Grotto had one large chamber and then five smaller ones. He had not thought to bring a lamp with him during his escape further into the cave. He had assumed the hall and each chamber would have light, but the lone lamp in this area flickered dimly. Hearing a giggle echo off the walls, Darcy inched back, hoping the darkness would shelter him from unwanted intrusion.

Expecting to feel the coolness of the stone wall, he was met with the softness of a female body while a softened yelp reverberated in his ears. He could feel the person falling due to his accidental bump. Spinning around, he thrust his hands into the darkness to steady the person. He did not feel the firmness of shoulders or elbows. Instead, the soft lusciousness of breasts filled his hands.

Mortified, he pulled his hands away. Before he could offer an apology, the lady gasped in shocked outrage.

“Mr. Darcy! How dare you!”

“Miss Elizabeth?”

 

Style Saturday–Hues of Fall

style saturday

I am by no means a fashion expert regarding the past or present. In fact, I seldom think about fashion. I do like to play with makeup but that’s pretty much for my own satisfaction rather than trying to copy looks or look “on trend.” However, I recently got some new fall colors and it reminded me of some palettes I put together inspired by Elizabeth Bennet and Caroline Bingley. If you missed it, I wrote a blog post comparing and contrasting them so it should be no surprise that in both of the most recent productions, their costuming has similar hues. Additionally, I chose colors for the palettes based on the names of the shades which I thought complimented each lady.

29025524_2074237186153277_1938975277975601152_n 29063409_2074241772819485_1293315039096209408_n

Next, I decided to try the inspiration looks myself. I didn’t try to recreate the inspiration picture–I might do that later. This time, I just looked at the shades I had selected. Which one do you prefer? On the bottom is the Elizabeth Bennet look and on the top is the Caroline Bingley look.

IMG_1575

Now, how accurate were the productions in regards to colors? I already addressed Caroline’s gowns in the the 2005 production. However, were there really gowns with so much orange and red? Weren’t most ladies wearing white?

 

 

Nope! The costume designers did their homework! There was a variety of colors to choose from, varying by year, season, and, of course, time of day.

 

Do you have a favorite Fall color to wear?