Today (a week late but you should be used to that by now from me!), I welcome fellow Austen-inspired author, Joana Starnes, to my Blog. It’s a triple whammy, as not only has Joana written about her love of all things Austen and how inspiration came about for her books, but she has also shared an excerpt from her latest release, The Subsequent Proposal, and there is a giveaway! More details on that at the end!
In the meantime, here’s Joana!
Thank you so much Cassandra for inviting me, it’s such a pleasure to be here!
As so many of us, I discovered Jane Austen in my teens and became hopelessly addicted several years later. The 1995 adaptation had a lot to do with it of course, for all the usual reasons, not least the amazing ability of recreating a world I’ve been looking for, ever since.
Not surprisingly, 200 years on, Jane Austen’s world is easier found in libraries than elsewhere. Even her beloved Steventon is altered beyond recognition, and the 1960s have ridden roughshod over Basingstoke, the nearest market town, where she sometimes danced at local assemblies.
Fortunately, there are many places left, where time appears to have stood still – and even if Miss Austen herself might have never visited there, her world lingers, and you can still catch glimpses of Pemberley and Kellynch, of Meryton and Highbury, of quiet lanes where Elizabeth might have walked, or rolling countryside over which Mr. Darcy might have galloped.
For several years, I’ve been looking for such places – and when I was lucky enough to find them, it was ever so easy to picture Jane Austen’s characters in them! Not as figments of her imagination, but as people. Real people, who might have lived, laughed, danced and gossiped, fallen in and out of love, and endeavoured to be happy.
I suppose that’s what did the trick: seeing them as real people; contemporaries inhabiting the same world. In that case, wouldn’t it have been natural for them to cross paths with one another, in London or elsewhere?
Looking back on it, I think it all began with Mrs Bennet. It was so easy to imagine her making Mrs Jennings’s acquaintance, and the pair of them becoming the very best of friends. A friendship truly made in heaven! Both loud, both brash, both embarrassingly talkative and unguarded – one with five daughters to settle down, the other just desperate to match-make!
Once I started looking, there were so many obvious associations I couldn’t believe I haven’t seen them sooner. Elizabeth would find a lot to respect and admire in Elinor. Georgiana and Marianne could easily spend hours talking about music – once Marianne got her feet back on the ground, that is! Charlotte Lucas and Jane Fairfax could be good friends. Charles Bingley and Frank Churchill could be bosom buddies. Anne Elliott and Georgiana would find a great deal in common – and come to think of it, so would Anne Elliott and Georgiana’s brother!
In my opinion, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anne Elliot are very much alike. Both quiet; both reserved; both living proof that still waters run deep; both nursing broken hearts and disappointed hopes, both driven by a sense of family duty that wars with personal inclination – until the time comes for that sense of duty to be put into perspective.
And then there is the other obvious association: Capt. Wentworth, an educated and discerning man, would be far more attracted to someone who had wit and sparkle in addition to youth, cheerfulness and beauty! If he can seriously consider Louisa Musgrove as a potential life-partner, wouldn’t Elizabeth Bennet thoroughly enchant him – if they had the opportunity to meet?
Once the thought occurred, the rest followed very quickly. It was a joy to weave ‘Pride & Prejudice’ with ‘Persuasion’ – my two all-time favourites! – in ‘The Subsequent Proposal’, released last autumn, and equally enjoyable to bring ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Sense & Sensibility’ together in my upcoming release, ‘The Second Chance’.
‘The Subsequent Proposal’ starts shortly after Hunsford, when a broken-hearted Darcy comes across Miss Anne Elliot. They are very similar in temperament and manner. She is kind, well-educated, of good family and exceptionally good influence on Georgiana. She would not make him wildly happy – but they would be content. One day he would have to marry anyway – so why not marry her, if he cannot have his heart’s desire? So he eventually brings himself to propose and he is accepted, only to find out before too long that a certain Captain Wentworth – good looking, sun-tanned, charming – is eagerly courting Elizabeth Bennet!
Now, before we go any further, I will say that although I love spanners in the works, misunderstandings, complications, interfering relatives and all manner of heartless obstacles, I’m of the firm opinion that it would be too depressing to write stories where Elizabeth and Darcy spend their lives apart. As far as I’m concerned, this is precisely why I’ve read so many ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variations: the sense of destiny, of a guiding red thread that runs through life and takes you to the place where you would be happy. That no matter how badly they start, how hopeless and dreadful their situation is, or is likely to become, Elizabeth and Darcy always get their happy-ever-after, and all is right with the world!
So, if you’re tempted to pick up ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ don’t let the non-canon pairings unsettle you. There is only one woman for Fitzwilliam Darcy, whether he knows it or not – and if he doesn’t know it yet, he will very soon find out!
On this note, I enclose an excerpt from ‘The Subsequent Proposal’, which I hope you’ll enjoy:
They could not lag behind for very long – Darcy could scarce doubt it. Still, he could not deny himself the exquisite enjoyment of revelling for a few moments more in the delightful picture Elizabeth presented, her countenance glowing from the sun and the exertion as she looked around at the astounding prospect, the loose tendrils that framed her beloved face swaying lightly in the gentle summer breeze.
With a sigh, Darcy took on the role of the devil’s advocate.
“We should return to the others,” he offered, and she concurred with a slight nod, then walked back towards him, and they both rejoined the path.
She did not take his arm, nor did he dare offer. Mindful of the precious moments of privacy slipping away from them again, he spoke up, only to discover that they had both begun at once.
“Before we do, though, pray allow me to apologise – ”
“Mr. Darcy, I must assure you – ”
“Pray, continue,” he civilly offered, but she shook her head and wordlessly indicated that he should have his say first.
“I beg leave to apologise for my earlier abruptness… I did not wish to offend!”
“Think nothing of it! Mr. Darcy, it appears that in recent times we have done nothing but repeatedly apologise to each other,” she added, but the wistfulness was mingled with a trace of the adorable archness of old, and he smiled despite himself to hear it. “For my part,” she continued, “I wanted to assure you that I merely wished to thank you for your generous intervention on behalf of a foolish young girl, to whom you owed nothing!”
‘Elizabeth, it was for you. For you alone I think and plan! Have you not seen this? Can you still fail to understand my wishes?’
The forbidden words filled his heart, his senses, and for a moment he thought they had escaped.
They had not – and before too long he would have to utter some half-truth or other, regarding his history with Wickham, and his resulting duty to prevent him from harming other innocents.
It did not come to pass. Engrossed in each other and in the intense moment, none of them had looked down to notice the protruding root, nor the stone it had loosened. At her sudden false step and small cry of alarm, Darcy’s arm shot out instinctively to steady her, and prevent her from slipping behind the large rhododendrons, down the steep side of the hill.
Later on, he had made a great deal of effort to persuade himself that he had merely aimed to grasp her arm. That it had not been his intention to wrap his own around her waist instead. That it had not been his conscious scheme, in any way whatever, if she was suddenly gathered to his chest, warm and safe, and close to him, as close as in his desperate, hopeless dreams. Her eyes intent on his, deep enough for drowning. Her lips mere inches from his own. And everything stood still, even the hazy air full of heady promise, as intoxicating as her warm weight in his arms.
He swallowed, knowing that in a moment it would go to his head. In a moment, the world beyond the merciful screen of rhododendrons would cease to exist, and his lips would hungrily claim hers, and he would taste at last the sweetness he had dreamt of. Her breath, her skin, her scent. He would let his lips roam over her translucent skin, glowing from the sunshine and from the deeper, inner glow of a sudden blush. And find her lips again, as he knew he must, and make up for every second of denial, every second of pretence!
The very air between them seemed charged with expectation, seemed to crackle and tingle – or perhaps it was the blood-rush, violent and forceful, that was making him hear things that were not there, as he teetered precariously on this side of abandonment, every drumming of his pulse pushing him closer to the edge.
Perfect, perfect, perfect. Exquisite and perfect. Body and soul his other half, in every way!
Dark eyes with specs of amber searching his in earnest – and softening at something they must have found therein. Her breath coming faster, warm upon his cheek, in small, rapid puffs of air that soothed and burned at once. The scent of her sun-kissed skin filling his senses, close, maddeningly close, and more intoxicating than the finest wine.
He took a deep breath, as though after a long time underwater – and the sound of it shattered the all too dangerous spell. The next moment, dark lashes fluttered over the dark eyes and he felt her endeavour to step back, so he reluctantly released her. His gloved hand lingered on her elbow as he asked – so blatantly unnecessarily that he would have blushed for it, had he been able to spare it a thought:
“Are you quite safe?”
“Yes. Yes, I am. I thank you,” came the faltering reply, and they were still close enough for her breath to brush over his face again, sending another rush of fire-needles along already tingling nerves.
His hand tightened on her elbow, this time without intention – and, at her swift glance, he let it drop. She made to carefully step away and resume her descent, but before she could do so, he reached out and offered his outstretched hand.
“Allow me,” he said quietly.
She hesitated. Briefly. Yet in the end she placed her small gloved hand in his. And now he had his earlier wish. He was holding her hand, her fingers gripping his now and again, at some occasional unevenness of ground. But it was not enough, not by a fair margin! He wanted more now. He wanted so much more!
He would not speak – he could not speak – and the recollection of the heady bliss that had been his, only a few short moments in the past, only increased the agonising dread of the impending separation.
He could have kissed her. The overwhelming thought brought back the needles and the rush of fire. Yet, underneath and largely unheeded, reason clamoured that, to have done so without the power to offer his hand in marriage once more, in the same breath, he would have injured her in the worst way imaginable.
It was a while until cold reason could prevail, as the surest way to subdue his disappointment.
Another disappointment lay in store. Halfway down from the rhododendron bush, Captain Wentworth was waiting – and this time Darcy could not miss the sheer hatred in the stony glare. His countenance, however, softened beyond recognition when he turned to Elizabeth and offered his hale hand.
“I must beg forgiveness for my inattention, Miss Bennet, it was most remiss of me. Would you allow me? I thank you, Sir,” he added with the scantest bow to Darcy, “for your eagerness to supplant me in my duties. May I observe that I am here now – and I should imagine you might wish to see to your own!”
The man had a horribly valid point and, although seething, Darcy could scarce dispute it. For her part, Elizabeth cast a glance from one of her companions to the other and seemed as though she was about to comment on the Captain’s terse words but, for some reason, thought better of it. Before too long, in any case, they had rejoined the others, and found the Gardiners in pleasant conversation with their eldest niece, Mr. Bingley and Georgiana, while Lady Russell stood at the side of a quiet Anne, looking distinctly unimpressed with the morning’s outcome.
“Ah! Mr. Darcy! I hope you have enjoyed your walk, Sir,” she observed blandly when he had joined the rest of the party. “Reluctant as I am to trespass on your kindness, I fear I must ask you to escort us home. This walk was a great deal longer than I expected. What say you, Anne? Are you ready to return?”
“If you are in need of rest, Ma’am, then by all means, let us do so,” Anne calmly replied, giving no further indication of her own thoughts on the matter.
It was readily apparent which way his duty lay, and Darcy had no option but pursue it. Adieus were swift and to the point, and there was no opportunity for voicing future plans – not that he could think of any.
The parties separated, each choosing its own path – and Darcy walked away in a daze of longing and despair. He had caught the vaguest glimpse of her upon his departure – a glance, a curtsy – and too many had been in the way, in every sense of the word. Yet it was not merely the parting’s bitter sorrow that weighed down his steps and pierced his heart.
The chance encounter in the gardens had suggested that Bingley and Miss Bennet were indeed in the right – not that he ever should have had the folly of disputing the views of Elizabeth’s dearest and closest sister. Whatever Elizabeth may have thought of him, she was not indifferent – nor was she irrevocably set against him any longer.
The notion that would have given him cause to fervently thank his maker just four months in the past was now a source of anguish and of the deepest heartache.
It was the cruellest torture to think that, had he been able to offer himself to her again, at that glorious moment on the Mount, by now he might have been engaged to Elizabeth Bennet.
He could scarce bear to walk away from her, that morning. How could he bear to walk away for the rest of his life?
He could scarce think – and yet he had to find a way, he had to!
Merciful heavens, there had be a way of rectifying the very worst misjudgement of his life!
If you would like to see just how he manages to rectify the worst misjudgement of his life, ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ is available in paperback and ebook format at Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers.
About the Author:
Joana lives in the South of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle.
Joana is also the author of ‘From This Day Forward’, “a thoughtful and discerning sequel about the Darcys – Austenesque Reviews, September 2013”, giving glimpses into the first few years of their marriage.
Her current project is ‘The Second Chance’, a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ ~ ‘Sense & Sensibility’ variation previously known, in an incomplete version, as ‘Steady to His Purpose’. She is currently revising it for publication and will be releasing it in Spring 2014.
You can connect with Joana Starnes on:
And now for the giveaway! Joana is offering an eBook copy of The Subsequent Proposal to one lucky reader (open internationally in all eBook formats). Just leave a comment below to be entered in the draw, and thank you to Joana for being a guest here and to you for reading!