Hi readers! I am very happy to welcome author Nancy Lawrence to Austenesque Reviews today!! If you didn’t already know, Nancy has a new book out titled Mary and the Captain. And as a big fan of Mary Bennet (see here, here, here, and here), I was very excited to learn more about her story and read it for myself!! Mary needs a little bit of love in her life, don’t you think?
I’ve been a long-time reader of Austenesque Reviews, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I gush just a little bit and tell you how happy I am to visit your blog, Meredith! Thanks to you and your wonderful reviews, I’m always discovering new Austenesque authors and enjoying new stories.
Aww, thank you, Nancy! I am so happy to share author posts with readers of this blog! Thank you so much for agreeing to do one!
Today I’d like to introduce your readers to my Austenesque novel, Mary and the Captain, a Pride and Prejudice Continuation. As you can guess by the title, it’s a story about my favorite Miss Bennet … Mary.
Who doesn’t love the Bennet sisters?
For generations, women (and men!) have enjoyed reading about the Bennet sisters’ search for love and happiness in the pages of Pride and Prejudice.
We all have our favorite sister: there’s gentle, kind-hearted Jane, spirited Elizabeth, misdirected Kitty, brash Lydia, and boring, studious Mary.
But wait a second. Maybe Mary isn’t as boring as everyone assumes her to be.
I’ve often thought that Mary was given short shrift in the novel, that she was never given a chance to shine and show the world (or at least the people of Meryton) her true personality. I like to think that beneath her banal quotations and pedantic remarks, Mary is just as noble and worthy of romance as her sisters Jane and Elizabeth.
That’s the premise I explore in Mary and the Captain.
The story takes place one year after the close of P&P, when Mary spends a holiday with Jane and Charles Bingley at Netherfield. Of course, Caroline is there, and so is Captain Robert Bingley, the younger Bingley brother, newly returned to England after serving his King and country in far-away lands.
At first, Mary’s shyness prevents her from even conversing with Robert; but when Robert sees an injustice that must be righted, it’s Mary who surprises everyone by volunteering to help him.
But it’s Mary’s love for books and reading that helps her overcome her initial timidity around Robert, and many of their interactions occur in the library at Netherfield.
I chose that setting because:
1. I love libraries
2. It seemed like the one place in the house where Mary would feel most comfortable; and it’s in that setting that Mary first finds herself opening up to Captain Robert Bingley.
Here’s an excerpt from Mary and the Captain depicting Mary’s first encounter with Robert in the Netherfield library.
* * *
But on this evening she had no time for leisurely reading or exploring the delights of the room; she was on a mission to find a particular book, and she was having a difficult time of it, indeed. She thought she had spied the title on an upper shelf a few days before; and to that end she had wheeled the library ladder along its rail to the location as she remembered it; but in the shadows of the upper shelves, she could not find the book.
Her search was a tricky business. She was obliged to hold on to the ladder rail with one hand and handle the books with the other; and once, when she thought she found the book and tried to pull it from the shelf to better read the title on the spine, the book proved to be heavier than she anticipated, and her slim fingers could not hold its weight, causing it to fall to the floor with a loud, echoing thud.
Seconds later she heard the door open. She looked down from her perch to see Captain Bingley standing just inside the room, a look of concern on his handsome face.
“Miss Bennet? What on earth is going on? That sounded very much like a gunshot!”
“A book just hit the floor. Forgive me if I disturbed you.”
“I was on my way upstairs when I heard the noise.” He closed the door and came further into the room, his attention firmly fixed on her. “Miss Bennet, what are you doing up there?”
“I’m looking for a book, naturally.”
“But why are you throwing them down on the floor?”
“I didn’t throw it. It fell, quite by accident, you can be sure. You see, I have only one hand to hold onto the ladder and one hand to pull at the books to read their titles, and the thick ones will insist on falling if I do not have a good hold of them.”
“But why are you up there? Won’t reading one of the books on these lower shelves prove just as satisfying?”
“No, they won’t do at all. I have already determined the book I am looking for must be up here on one of these shelves. If I were at home I should look at my father’s copy, but since I am here …” She turned her gaze back upon the rows of books before her. “Oh, there must be an edition of it somewhere—I am certain a library of this size must have one.”
“A Debrett’s Peerage. I thought it would be easy enough to find, but nothing seems to be in any order that makes sense. I tell you, I am just itching to catalog all these books and put them in their proper place. Only see—here is a copy of Dante’s Inferno shelved right beside Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
Perceiving that she actually expected an answer, Robert said, “No, I have not. But what is so important about reading Debrett’s now when there are hundreds of other books here from which you might choose?” He cast his gaze about until it lit upon a familiar title on a nearby shelf. “Why, here is Gulliver! Now, that is a book worth reading. It is one of my favorite novels.”
She looked down at him in surprise. “It is?”
“Certainly. Don’t you like it?”
“Why, no—I mean, I didn’t think men read novels,” she said, thinking back to something she thought Kitty had told her.
“I assure you, men do. In fact, it was a novel that made me want to join the king’s army. This novel, to be exact—Gulliver’s Travels. Do you know it?”
“I have heard of it.”
“Then let me recommend it to you. It’s a fine book, full of adventure and descriptions of exotic lands.” He paused as Mary pulled another book from the shelf, sending a shower of delicate dust into the halo of the candle’s light. “Let me also recommend that you come down from that ladder, Miss Bennet. I should not like you to fall.”
“But I cannot be easy seeing you up there.”
Instead of answering, Mary gave a small shout of triumph. “Oh, there it is!”
She stretched her arm out toward the book she was seeking, but the short little volume stood tantalizingly just out of reach. Standing up on her toes did not cure the problem, and she was about to place her foot on the next rung up the ladder when Robert said, in a commanding voice:
“Don’t do it!”
“But I must get just a little higher if I am to reach it.”
“Come down now, Miss Bennet, and allow me to retrieve the book for you.” She hesitated, causing him to say, “If you do not come down this instant, I shall come up there after you.”
There was something about Captain Bingley that made Mary think that he was the type of man who was prepared to act on any threat he made. He was certainly a good deal taller than she was and would be able to reach the book with ease.
“Very well,” she said, beginning a slow descent.
Once her feet were safely on the floor, he handed her the Gulliver’s Travels. “Wouldn’t you like to read this book instead of the Debrett’s, Miss Bennet?”
“No—I mean, yes, I will read it on your recommendation, of course! But I still need the Debrett’s.”
“As you wish.” He set his foot on the first rung of the ladder, but paused, and looked down into her eyes. “I have a deep suspicion that you make it a practice never to read novels, Miss Bennet.”
“That is true.”
“What do you like to read for pleasure, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Pepys and Pope, usually.”
He made a face. “Diaries and poems? I suppose they are all very well, but would you call them inspiring? Surely there must be times when you want to read something that fires your imagination.”
She tried to think of such an example, but couldn’t. “My sister Kitty reads novels. She swoons over Evalina.”
“Miss Bennet, don’t you think it is time you swooned, too?”
Mary looked up at him, on guard for any sign of mockery in his eyes; instead she saw that his expression was somewhat measuring, and that he was half-smiling at her in a way that was really very charming. She could not help responding to it, even as she wondered whether he meant his words as a compliment or a criticism.
* * *
So begins the first of many encounters between Mary and Robert in the library. With each meeting, Robert begins to see glimpses of Mary’s true personality … and finds himself intrigued.
And Mary learns she has much more in common with handsome Robert Bingley than she initially thought. But if she isn’t careful, she just might lose her heart to the dashing captain.
Mary and the Captain is available now in print and e-book formats at all major book retailers.
Oh, I just love that many of these scenes take place in the library! What a perfect setting! Captain Bingley seems lovely! Can’t wait to read this even more now!!
Connect with Nancy
Today Nancy is giving away a Netherfield Library Prize Package, filled with some of the items Mary and Captain Bingley used during their visits together in many of the library scenes.
Netherfield Library Prize Package
- A wax seal set you can use to seal your own letters and cards, just as Mary and Robert set their seal to the letters they wrote together in the Netherfield library.
- A pair of desk scissors inspired by the very scissors Kitty lent to Robert to open an important letter he received.
- A modern-day ballpoint pen bearing Jane Austen’s autograph, perfect for writing your own clever correspondence.
- A red-and-white ribbon bookmark, so you’ll never have to worry about losing your place in the story.
- A copy of Mary and the Captain, signed by the author.
- A lovely Pride and Prejudice inspired bag to carry your copy of Mary and the Captain wherever you go!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Nancy below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Nancy!
- This giveaway ends August 30th!