Finally Catching Up!

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. DH was off work during the holidays and, as much as I love having him around, he does have a tendency to hog the computer. (I’ve told him several times that when he retires — he’s looking at early retirement in a couple of years — we’d better have two computers both attached to the Internet, or one of us will not survive his retirement!)

suzan-lauderToday I have the pleasure of introducing Suzan Lauder, author of Alias Thomas Bennet and today’s feature, Letter from Ramsgate.

Jane Austen left a great deal to the reader’s imagination, so Suzan took one of these “under-described” incidents — Georgiana Darcy’s encounter with George Wickham at Ramsgate — and filled in the details.

I enjoyed this book and have reviewed it, but before posting the review I have a special treat. Suzan has graciously outlined the methods she employed to create my favourite scene in the story. So let me hand this off to Suzan now, followed by my review of Letter from Ramsgate.

Guest Post by Suzan Lauder: The Hunsford Proposal and Deep Point of View

Warning—This article contains spoilers

While enjoying Letter from Ramsgate, some readers have expressed concern about how Darcy could have jumped so quickly from the romance of the proposal to the anger about his assumption that Elizabeth was friends with Mrs. Younge.

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Letter from Ramsgate at amazon.com

The easy way out for the author would be to get the reader inside his head and show his thought process explicitly rather than let them watch his anger escalate and the proposal fall apart like a train wreck from Elizabeth’s viewpoint. Had I done this, it would be called head-hopping. However, the writing style I used eschews this technique, which is casually used by many, many writers who choose the more traditional point of view of Omniscient Narrator.

I wrote Letter from Ramsgate in what’s called Third Person Limited, Deep Point of View. This is a popular technique for Regency romance novels. In Deep Point of View, the author must stick to only one character’s point of view at any time; point of view (POV) changes take place only at chapter or clear scene breaks with markers alerting the reader to the change, and the reader gets so deep into the character’s head that they “see” it as if they were there. Another analogy is that the reader is like a camera filming the action: the alternative Omniscient Narrator POV has the reader’s “camera” high up watching from a neutral position. In Deep POV, it’s like the camera is on the shoulder of the point of view character.

Though much harder to write, this technique provides the reader with a much more intense experience, as they’re almost in the character’s head. It also means that if the character is confused and things around them seem unfair, the elevated sense of that unfairness becomes the reader’s experience too. Readers were hurt and indignant regarding Darcy’s jumping to conclusions, therefore I did my job as writer well, because that’s how it looked to Elizabeth at the moment.

How can his actions be justified? In the scene with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the way to Rosings, Darcy is clear about how much he hates Mrs. Younge—more than he hates Wickham—and blames her totally for Georgiana’s misfortune. A couple of chapters later, during the proposal, readers don’t get to know what Darcy is thinking. The point of view is now Elizabeth’s (and the author is hamstrung!). We feel how whisked away she is with the romance and kisses, but we don’t know why her begging Darcy to help Mrs. Younge—a woman he abhors—causes him to become so very angry. Yet his reaction is supported by prior events as well as later scenes where we get to hear how he has reacted to this situation that was just as painful to him as to Elizabeth.

Of course he was terribly wrong. But he had not yet learned how to deal with his conceit, his thinking meanly of those below him, his overblown pride, nor his sense of superiority—all the things he says he learned as a child and applied unwisely in Austen’s novel. In Letter from Ramsgate, his true “Hunsfordization” doesn’t take place until much later in the book, where he gets read the riot act not once, but three times, by a total of no less than five women! He doesn’t know all the facts until then, and pays for it in fear that his mistakes will cost him the woman he loves now that he realizes he can’t force himself to choose expectations over his heart. From Elizabeth’s POV in the final chapters, Darcy finally redeems himself, yet she doesn’t make it easy!

Thanks to Janis for the opportunity to share this fascinating writing topic with readers and authors as a guest post on her blog!

And thank you, Suzan. I have to admit that I have some difficulty understanding POV in general, and your explanation actually has this concept sinking in (finally!).

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Now for my review of Letter from Ramsgate:

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder

When I re-read Pride & Prejudice as an adult, my first impression of Mr Darcy was that he was “socially retarded.” That impression came back to mind as I read this story.

But first … I believe that most P&P readers wonder what exactly happened in Ramsgate between Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham. Jane Austen leaves this episode rather vague so we are left to our own imaginations. Until now. Suzan Lauder gives us every smarmy detail of the nefarious plot and its players.

Fortunately, this time around we have Lizzy Bennet coming to Georgiana’s rescue, albeit anonymously. The letter referred to in the title brings Lizzy and Mr Darcy together, and at first all proceeds well between them. But the road to happily-ever-after is by no means smooth for our dear couple. There is plenty of angst in both their hearts and sufficient mutual misunderstandings to satisfy even the most die-hard of P&P fans – Pride and Prejudice being the ultimate tale of angst brought on by misunderstandings, mostly caused by (of course) the pride and/or prejudice of our hero and heroine.

And for his part, this is where the “socially retarded” Mr Darcy enters the picture.

Fortunately (again), this time Georgiana saves the day … and is the vehicle for reuniting our dear couple. Their reunion could almost be the equivalent of a “meet cute” – well, you’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.

I very much enjoyed this carefully-written story; even my anal reading eye could not uncover more than one or two minor text errors. The story flows well while taking the reader on a journey of non-canon relationships and interesting new characters.

What I liked most: The cover. It is simply gorgeous.

The Hunsford proposal. It is absolutely brilliant. And a bit more deliciously amatory than the original – although this is still a clean read.

The letter that followed the proposal is likewise brilliantly constructed.

What I liked least: The scenes that take place at the Exeter Exchange zoo and references to Chunee the elephant. I really did not need a reminder of the horrendous prison-like menageries that existed until recent times. And still exist in some places, such as roadside zoos. Nor of the reminder of Chunee’s horrifying end. (To be fair, this detail was presented separately in author’s notes. But it was a jarring note after such a pleasant read.)

The author’s conclusions about disguised handwriting. Having studied the psychology of handwriting for a number of years, I was not completely convinced that the subterfuge would have been successful. On the other hand it wasn’t completely out of line so for the sake of the plot line I let it pass and suspend disbelief. Sometimes the reader has to do that or you end up never enjoying a story, and just drive yourself nuts.

In short: An enjoyable read with just enough wretchedness amongst the characters to remind you that you’re reading a P&P variation! I gave it four stars out of five.

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. (Coming soon for Nook.) desp-hearts-cover

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And the winners are …

Randomly selected winners are Johanna R and kneyda.

Please contact me at EverySavageCanDance1796@gmail.com to claim your kindle copy of Desperate Hearts. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you to everybody who participated.  I wish you all could have won a prize, but perhaps in a future giveaway.

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If you’re a Janeite you’ll love these!

Found two wonderful articles relating to Jane Austen that I had nothing to do with but just had to share with you. Even Taylor Swift is apparently a Janeite! I know you’ll enjoy these …

7 Things you notice when you read Jane Austen for the first time as an adult …

and …

8 Taylor Swift songs that are really about Jane Austen’s leading men …

And don’t forget that tomorrow, Jane’s birthday, is the last day to enter to win a copy of Desperate Hearts!

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Published!! Excerpt!! Giveaway!!

Some months ago I posted a P&P variation story at DarcyandLizzy.com.

I named the story Desperation and posted it in installments over several weeks. Reaction to the story by D&L’s readers was very favourable and encouraging. So encouraging, in fact, that I took the advice of several people and finally published the story earlier this week.

At this time it is available at amazon.com in kindle format only. Renamed Desperate Hearts, it has been authored under a pen name. You see, a collaborator took on some of the editing and rewriting so of course I wanted to list us both as co-authors. But my collaborator, who worked under the presumption of doing me a good turn without expectation of reward, did not wish to have her name on the book as a co-author. So I created a pen name from family names on my mother’s side.

The day after it was published I discovered that someone had already reviewed it! “Well-written and enjoyable — You won’t regret buying this little gem.” Read the entire four-star review on amazon. (Thank you, Jules!)

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Still paying homage to Jane.

In celebration of my very first published work of fiction (much less Austenesque fiction) I want to give away two kindle copies to two ESCD readers. To enter the give-away, please comment on this blog post by midnight of Jane Austen’s birthday: Friday, December 16th. Winners will be selected by random drawing, and will be announced here on Sunday, December 18th. The link to leave a comment is in the upper left-hand corner of this post.

Desperate Hearts excerpt:

“Give it up, Caroline. He is not interested in you.”

“Why whatever do you mean, Charles? I expect he will make me an offer any time now.”

desp-hearts-coverCharles Bingley shook his head to shake off his disgust with his sister. This had been going on almost since the first moment Caroline had laid eyes on his dear friend Fitzwilliam Darcy – and on Darcy’s beautiful homes in Derbyshire and London – and decided that she would make the perfect wife for him. More importantly, that he would make the perfect husband for her. So what if he did not have a title? He was wealthier than almost any man in England, had a bigger estate than almost any man in England – and he was far handsomer too.

“Darcy is not considering matrimony at this time, Caroline. And even if he were he is not looking for you – nor will he. I am sorry to cause you pain, but there it is. It has been more than three years since you first set your cap for him and he has not even asked if he could court you much less marry you.”

“Then Charles, please tell me why he keeps inviting me to Pemberley and Darcy House if he feels no attachment to me?” His sister gave him a look of triumph.

Charles shook his head again. “Caroline, Darcy is my friend. He invites me to his homes. He allows you to accompany me. Although if you keep chasing him he may not be so willing to allow you to join me on future visits.”

Caroline’s look of triumph crumbled into a pout. She was unaware that it was a most unbecoming expression on her hard-edged features. Petulantly she whined “Brother, I believe you have persuaded Mr. Darcy not to marry me. I don’t know why, but it is most cruel and high-handed of you. It is a brother’s duty to introduce his sister to eligible gentlemen for marriage. Well, you introduced me to Mr. Darcy. Now you do not want us to marry. Are you jealous that I, your younger sister, would be marrying before you?”

Bingley was just about at his wit’s end. “You are mistaken, Caroline. I would be the happiest man in the world if you would marry and move out of my house, and if your husband were responsible for paying your bills for fancy gowns and turbans and all the other frippery you claim to need. I never told Darcy not to consider you. In point of fact, he is the one who approached me on this subject. He has told me more than once that although we are friends and you are my sister he has no interest in a match with you. He could not be any plainer in his intentions. Why do you make me say these hurtful things when you must surely already know this yourself?”

Caroline’s face crumpled completely and she burst into tears, not a very good look for her either. “You are the most hateful brother in the world” she spat at him as she ran past him, out of the sitting room, and up the stairs to her apartment.

Charles Bingley, being a soft-hearted man who loved his sister, did not like to have these arguments with her, and felt terrible that he was obliged to speak to her this way. If only she would accept the reality that she would never be Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy – but Bingley suspected that would not happen until Darcy married someone else. And Darcy showed no inclination towards marrying any time soon. Which was most unfortunate, because Bingley was growing weary of these repeated scenes with Caroline – scenes that resolved nothing but left both of them in a most unhappy state.  And then … Bingley began to muse on the events at Sir William Lucas’ party last week, as well as Darcy’s attentions to Miss Elizabeth since she had been at Netherfield attending her ailing sister. Had his friend at last found a young lady who can engage his affections? He grinned hopefully.

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I hope this excerpt will tempt you into reading my little contribution to JAFF. (It is a novella, not a full-length novel. So you should be able to read it by the time you finish your second pot of tea!) After you read it, I would be most grateful if you would leave a review — even a very short review — at amazon.com, GoodReads, or your own review blog (and I will happily provide a link to your blog if you will be good enough to notify me when it’s posted.) Thank you so much!

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Getting into Mr Darcy’s pants

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Mr Darcy’s frilled shirt

One of the pleasures of watching film adaptations of Jane Austen stories is the abundant collection of extraordinarily hunky men who populate these dramatizations. (Okay, so maybe not every story; how can we forget the anomaly of P&P2005’s disappointingly goofy Mr Bingley?)

While we’re enthralled with the lovely gowns and dresses of the female characters, let’s face it: we just adore seeing those hunks in their well-tailored costumes. Now, show of hands: who amongst you has wondered what the guys are wearing underneath those form-fitting outfits? (If you’re over the age of consent and haven’t raised your hand, I presume you’re crossing your fingers with your other hand.)

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Mr Darcy’s shirt showing the collar tips (also called “ears”)

The Regency era was a period of fashion flux. Ladies had recently abandoned their structured hoops and bustles, which essentially rebuilt the shape of a woman’s body, for a resurgence of classical Greek-style dresses that followed the female form more closely. Gentlemen dressed to preserve the distinction of rank, then they adopted more “democratic” styles, then re-adopted styles that could be worn only by the leisure classes.

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Mr Bingley’s cravat covering the front opening of his shirt

Two factors influenced the evolution of undergarments during this period. The first was a growing sense of prudery, tempered by the generally greater permissiveness that often characterizes periods of war. (The Napoleonic Wars dragged on from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.) The second, and possibly of greater influence, was a startling concept taking root: the notion of personal cleanliness. Prior to this period, people bathed infrequently and not very effectively. Whole families – sometimes whole villages – shared responsibility for heating bath water and then shared the same bathtub in succession according to age and rank. Children were at the end of the long line of bathers, and by the time they were granted access to the tub the water was generally rather murky – I know: yuck, right? – leading to the admonition to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when emptying the tub.

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Mr Darcy preparing to be very stylish

As the Regency era progressed, those who could afford it indulged in regular ablutions in their own private bathtubs. They changed and laundered their clothing more frequently, no longer relying on perfume to cover up unpleasant body odours.  No less a figure than George “Beau” Brummell himself – confidante to the Prince Regent and acknowledged arbiter of men’s fashions of the time – declared that for a gentleman to be properly dressed in society he must first be scrupulously scrubbed clean.

This led to gentlemen changing their clothing more frequently, as shirt collars and cuffs, as well as cravats, had a tendency to soil rather easily. Underwear likewise was changed more often to maintain that cleanliness.

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Mr Darcy’s exposed collar and cuffs

Men’s underwear mostly took the form of drawers: underpants that generally reached to the knee under breeches or longer under trousers. These were fastened with ties at the waist and the knee, and fashioned of various fabrics depending on the time of year: Lighter cotton or linen drawers would be worn in summer, while flannel or wool were preferred for winter wear. Under trousers, gentlemen often wore stockinette (stretchy knitted cotton) drawers that extended the full length of the lower torso and leg, usually ending in loops around the feet.

When a gentleman’s breeches were particularly form-fitting, they might have had drawers attached to the inside, like a lining. These drawers were removable for laundering. Or he may have simply tucked his shirt deeply into his breeches or trousers to eliminate the bulk of an extra layer.

During this time, mens’ shirts were considered underwear. The collar would be long, perhaps six inches or so, and unless turned down over the tied cravat would extend up to cover part of a gentleman’s face. The front neckline was fastened with one or two buttons, and may have featured a frill that peeked over his waistcoat (or, as we now call it, his vest). Shirt collars and cuffs may have been adorned with ruffles, and gentlemen of leisure would allow an inch or two of their shirt sleeve to extend beyond the end of their jacket sleeve, a luxury not possible for working men whose cuffs were tucked under longer jacket sleeves to keep them clean. Fabrics used for shirts were generally light linens and cottons. When we saw P&P1995’s Mr Darcy dive into the pond without his jacket or waistcoat we actually saw him in his underwear – the equivalent of the modern tee shirt or undershirt. Likewise when P&P2005’s Mr Darcy roamed the fields of Netherfield in search of Elizabeth, he was also in his undershirt – even if it did not have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve!

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Regency man’s corset – credit public domain

Fashionable men, including the Prince Regent himself, wore corsets to create the appearance of a slim-waisted figure. Corsets tied in the back and required the services of a valet to tighten them.

Gentlemen of the time normally would change their clothes, and their cravats, at least twice a day to ensure a tidy appearance, altho’ drawers were usually not changed more than once a day. The average gentleman kept a wardrobe of fifty to sixty shirts, about half as many cravats, and maybe ten or twelve pairs of drawers. Nightshirts were similar to day-wear shirts, altho’ about a foot longer in length.

Here are a few examples of Jane’s gentlemen with their undershirts showing, along with a video that truly charmed me. I hope it charms you too! Please note that I do not own the copyright to any of this media. Film stills are the property of BBC; video is the property of ZZ Top.)

(Part Two: A peek under Lizzy Bennet’s muslin gown.)

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Review and Giveaway: Particular Intentions by L. L. Diamond

particularintentions-coverJust finished reading Particular Intentions by L.L. Diamond, staying up two nights to read: first to start it and again to finish it. That’s how compelling I found the story and the writing; I had to know what happened next! From the exquisite cover to the final “Welcome to Pemberley, my love,” it is a most enjoyable read. I don’t think I’ve presented you with a spoiler here; other than the movie Lost in Austen, every JAFF variation I’ve seen has its Darcy-and-Lizzy happily-ever-after ending. As does Particular Intentions.

The story is a departure from canon; Darcy and Elizabeth get on quite well almost from the start, which I liked very much, and they are betrothed within the first hundred pages. As you might expect, however, the course of true love does not run smoothly for our dear couple. The obstacles and angst that separate them simply take place a little further on in their relationship.

And if you must have your Hunsford proposal, you will be disappointed. I did not miss it.

Perhaps this would be a good juncture to interject my own opinion of Elizabeth Bennet’s character, which I realize is not shared by most Janeites. I first read P&P when I was a young teenager and could not yet appreciate the story or the writing. When I revisited Jane Austen as an adult, my first reaction to Elizabeth was “Why is she listening to this stranger’s gossip, and why is she passing it along to others? Yeah, the guy dissed her, but – yuck. And why do she and her father claim she has such excellent insight into reading other people? She’s practically a blind beetle!” When I saw the 1995 film version, I wanted to punch her in her “fine eyes” several times. The dance at the Netherfield Ball, when she kept pulling faces, summed up her character for me. What arrogance! What sanctimoniousness! How judgmental! Pride and prejudice? Yes! Both terms described Elizabeth to a T!

This gives you an idea of how I read any P&P variation. I am always surprised, and usually pleased, when Elizabeth is drawn without these negative qualities.

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Author L. L. Diamond

In Particular Intentions, the angst begins at the Netherfield Ball, when they are already betrothed, with Elizabeth overhearing part of a conversation and immediately drawing the wrong conclusion, then over-reacting with typical stubbornness and self-righteousness – which nearly brings her idyllic situation with Mr Darcy to an untimely end. Fortunately, with a little help from her loved ones, she admits her mistake, and humbly returns to Mr Darcy.

Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that someone – or some ones – wish ill to both Mr Darcy and his betrothed. Who are they and what are their intentions? As the wedding day approaches, the threat becomes more imminent. A surprise attack on the couple in the middle of London leaves them both injured and their families shocked. Now it is up to Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam to discover who was behind the assaults, and whether they need to prepare for further attacks or can catch the person or persons responsible before they send their goons out to strike again.

What I liked most: Elizabeth acting like a love-struck teenager; it is most endearing! Colonel Fitzwilliam coming to the rescue when danger touches his cousin. The humour, especially in the portrayal of the wedding night. No, no, it’s not what you think; their wedding takes place after the assault. Their intimate moments described with the suggestion of what takes place between them. I confess that I do not care for detailed descriptions of their marital (and sometimes extra-marital) relations contained in some JAFF; I prefer not to be a fly on their bedroom wall. This story went into just enough detail to get the reader’s imagination working!

I also liked the happy, although unexpected, outcome for a character who was under-served in the original.

And the story hit my own “must-haves” for successful JAFF: there must be sufficient face-time for Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I must fall in love with Mr Darcy all over again. Otherwise why read JAFF?

What I liked least: Although I enjoyed the writing and the story itself, there were a couple of instances of group discussions that included no “said-isms.” This made it difficult to keep track of who was speaking. By the end of the discussions it became clear who had said what, but I would have preferred clarification while I was reading it.

In short: A well-thought-out and well-written story that I enjoyed very much. If I had to give it a star rating, it would be 4.75 out of 5.0 (just a bit taken off for the slightly short supply of said-isms).

Purchase Particular Intentions at amazon or your favourite book/ebook dealer.

(I received an e-ARC in return for an honest review.)

The giveaway: The author is offering a Jane Austen gift pack to one lucky reader. There are no residency restrictions.

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Included in the prize:

  • One Pride and Prejudice Journal
  • S&S postcard
  • Persuasion postcard
  • Fashion plate postcard
  • Fashion plate note card
  • Pack of 5 JA quote & fashion plate note cards
  • Austen Variations bookmark

To enter: Comment on this review by Sunday, November 27. The winner will be announced here on Monday, November 28, 2016. The Comments link is at the top-left of this post.

Good luck!

 

 

Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series by Pamela Aidan

These are not new books, having been published from 2003 to 2005, but as I am a relative newcomer to JAFF I often find myself trying to catch up on some of the older stories that are still new to me.

anassemblysuchasthisDuring one of my visits to our local paperback trading shop I scored a copy of An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan. At the time I did not realize that it was the first book of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. I was very much enjoying the story, so when I learned that there was more I purchased volume two — Duty and Desire — and the final volume, These Three Remain, in paperback as well. And I’m so pleased that I did!

The story — and the three books really comprise only one story — is essentially a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr Darcy’s perspective. We all know how Elizabeth felt about Mr Darcy, her reaction to his proposal at Hunsford, her lesson in self-awareness when she read his letter, her shock at seeing him again at Pemberley, and her changing sentiments towards him that led to a happily ever after. But we don’t know how Mr Darcy felt about all of this. Jane gives us some hints, but nothing substantial.

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I have to admit that this illustration reminds me more of Colonel Fitzwilliam than of Mr Darcy!

Ms Aidan delves into Mr Darcy’s view of Elizabeth, which is of course quite different from Elizabeth’s view of Mr Darcy. She tells us why Mr Darcy proposed to Elizabeth, why he completely anticipated her acceptance, and the heartbreak he suffered when she refused. The first volume sets up the characters and story lines we are so familiar with. In the second volume, we meet some new characters — some that we love and some not so much — as Darcy tries to forget Elizabeth and decides to seek a wife elsewhere. Finally in the third volume Darcy accepts that he can be happy with nobody but Elizabeth, and resolves to become the man Elizabeth deserves to marry.

We understand how Darcy interpreted their interactions, from the Meryton assembly to the time they spent together at Netherfield and Rosings, differently from Elizabeth’s interpretations, leading him to draw conclusions — logical from his point of view — that eventually result in his disastrous proposal. We hear his thoughts on how his upbringing formed him into the man he is, and about the danger he feels regarding his growing affections for this societally unsuitable young lady (and his more amusing reflections on Caroline Bingley). We accompany him to Rosings Park where he misconstrues Elizabeth’s actions to the point where he believes wholeheartedly in her being attached to him, then to the parsonage where his beliefs are shattered.

darcy-trilogy-3In the original story, Darcy essentially “disappears” for several months after Hunsford, and we do not know what he is doing during this time. Duty and Desire tells us. The author describes his efforts to forget about the woman he desires and focus on his duty to himself and his family to marry and produce an heir. To this end Darcy makes a series of bad, and potentially dangerous, choices while seeking a wife. It is only through the good offices of a new character that he escapes potential ruination, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is only one woman who can make him happy. And that he must overcome his own faults if he wants to win her hand.

The third volume has Darcy accepting and working to improve his character flaws. Again he nearly steps into a scandal and again is rescued by the new character of a long-time friend. We travel with him to the seedy side of London to rescue Lydia Bennet and to deal with his long-time nemesis Mr Wickham. And finally we are privileged to witness his transformation of consciousness as he overcomes his weaknesses and wins Elizabeth’s love.

What I liked most: Newly-created characters. One is Darcy’s old university friend, a man with many secrets who proves repeatedly that he can be counted on in adversity, particularly when he is protecting Darcy from other old friends who have far less than his best interests at heart. Another is Darcy’s valet, a charming eccentric who longs to be acknowledged as a trend-setter but must accommodate Darcy’s conservatives tastes — and exhibits unqualified loyalty. Even the bad guys in this story — and there were plenty — were interestingly drawn. I liked the references to actual historical events, particularly the hostilities arising between England and Ireland, and the roles these new characters played in these events; these are the kinds of details that are not only enjoyable but encourage me to research more about the referenced history. I liked the detailed timeline of Darcy’s search for and discovery of Lydia and Wickham. The fencing scenes were most exciting, and Darcy’s drunken (yes, drunken!) confession to his old friend of his unrequited love for Elizabeth was quite amusing. I also enjoyed the tender interactions between Darcy and his sister. We even get to sit in his dressing room and share his thoughts as he prepares for his wedding. And I always love JAFF stories that grant plenty of face time to Colonel Fitzwilliam, as the author does here.

What I liked least:  Some of the more dangerous events involved what appeared to be supernatural forces. While I realize that many Jane Austen fans are also Harry Potter fans, I do not count myself amongst them. I have never read any of the Harry Potter stories, and generally avoid stories about witchcraft, sorcery, and the like. I find that there is enough good and evil in the real world to add flavour to stories without resorting to the device of supernatural forces. Your own enjoyment of this type of story may differ, of course.

In short: This series is well-written and engaging, and I wish it could have continued for another two or three volumes! As this is not an “official” review, I cannot offer an excerpt. While the trilogy is available as a complete set, if you are looking to keep your reading costs down (reading can on occasion be an expensive habit to feed) I recommend that you consider ordering the three volumes separately (see my article here about this).

To learn more about Pamela Aidan, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or explore her publishers’ author pages. Here is a list of links to some of these.

(All book covers are the property of the author.)

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I must have my …

Some friends and I watched the wonderful Lost in Austen the other day, and the post-viewing conversation naturally meandered to the many things we have or use in 2016 that would not even exist two hundred years ago. What would it be like to be transported to the past — specifically to Jane Austen’s time — and what would we miss most.

We decided to make a list of the things we would want to take with us if we could ever be transported back to the world of Pride and Prejudice and Mr Darcy.

Sure, there are lots of things that the Regency world could never have dreamed of, so we decided to limit our choices to things that we could actually use there. Cell phones, movie theatres, and anything that relied on electricity or gasoline/petrol of course was out.

Each of us chose three items. Here’s the final list we came up with.

dotted_panties_-_pink~ Toothbrush and toothpaste
~ Shampoo
~ Underpants
~ Mascara
~ Blusher
lip-gloss.jpg~ Lipstick/lip gloss
~ Contact lenses
~ Oreo cookies (altho’ the case could be made that we could recreate these)
~ My dog
~ The book Fifty Shades of Grey
running-shoes~ Teabags (can you believe someone actually picked this? LOL!)
~ Running shoes

Are these the same things you would choose? If not, please leave your list of three items in a Comment — see link to Leave a Comment above left. We might even scare up a prize for the best list!

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Tea and cakes

teacupA popular theme in Austen, Austenesque, and meetings of Janeites is tea, usually served with bread and butter or cakes, or both. In the time period, cakes usually referred to what we call soft cookies. (The word cookie did not enter the lexicon until some decades later.)

Recall that ovens were outdoor affairs, and had no temperature controls. The baker had to essentially wing it as far as baking temperatures, altho’ experienced bakers could fairly well control the proper heat and baking time.

When we still lived up North we often visited Colonial Williamsburg, ate at the restaurants, and picked up some cookbooks while we were there. This is my favourite recipe — very easy and very tasty, and very versatile: you can ice them, serve with jam or cream similar to scones, mix in chopped nuts, currants, or even chocolate mini chips. Or make a pyramid for a lovely presentation. Enjoy with your favourite cuppa, perhaps a Jane Austen-inspired tea.

18th Century recipe

Take a pound and a half of fine flour, one pound of cold butter, half a pound of sugar, work all these well together into a paste, then roll it with the palms of your hands into round balls, and cut them with a thin knife into thin cakes, sprinkle a little flour on a sheet of paper, and put them on; prick them with a fork and bake them.

21st Century version

  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add flour in thirds to the mixture. Remove the mixture by scraping with a spatula or knife and place on hard surface and knead until well mixed and smooth. Dough will be stiff.
  2. Form into four balls, one the size of a tennis ball and reducing in size as you go until the smallest ball is about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
  3. Slice dough 1/4” thick with a sharp, smooth knife. Place on parchment paper or lightly greased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake at 350, 12-18 minutes until the centers of the large cakes are set when lightly pressed with your finger.
  5. After cooling, remove from cookie sheet. To form into a pyramid shape, use the larger cakes on the base, and stack the next smaller ones on top. Sift confectioner’s sugar on top (optional).

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