Hello readers! I am very happy to welcome the lovely Shannon Winslow back to Austenesque Reviews today! Shannon is the author of several fantastic Austenesque stories and I’ve been a long time admirer of her work! Today Shannon is here to talk about her newest book, The Ladies of Rosings Park, which, as you might expect, features the ladies who live in the vicinity of Rosings Park. 😉 I hope you greatly enjoy her post!
It Taught Him to Hope
I intended The Ladies of Rosings Park to be a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, which would mean starting afterwards – telling the story of what becomes of Anne de Bourgh after Darcy and Elizabeth rode off into the sunset together. But I quickly realized that Anne’s story began earlier. It began the minute Elizabeth Bennet set foot in Hunsford. That’s when everything changed for her, so that’s where I needed to start. Consequently, the first section of this new book reads like “missing scenes” from Pride and Prejudice – you favorite novel from a different perspective.
You will recall that towards the end of the book, Elizabeth learned from Darcy to whom they were indebted for their present good understanding. They were indebted to Lady Catherine and her interference! Instead of convincing her nephew of Miss Bennet’s perverseness as she intended, the effect of Lady Catherine’s visit had been exactly contrariwise. It taught him to hope.
Jane Austen tells us that this confrontation between Darcy and his contentious aunt took place, but the scene itself is ‘missing.’ So I had the fun of writing it for this new book! Now, here it is, as told by Anne:
“Lady Catherine, Miss Anne,” he said upon receiving us. “Please do sit down. To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Anne may sit,” said Mama, which I did, expecting to be a mere spectator for whatever followed. “I will remain standing,” she continued, “for I am far too provoked at present to be comfortable.”
She thus obliged William to remain on his feet as well, watching her pacing and her other displays of displeasure. “I am sorry to hear it, Aunt. How may I be of assistance?”
“You may be of assistance by giving me the assurances I require. I have just returned from Hertfordshire where I had some serious words with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who, I am sorry to tell you, was as perverse and contrary as any person I have ever encountered. I am not accustomed to such language as she inflicted upon me.”
William ignored Mama’s complaints to ask, “Miss Bennet? What business could you possibly have with her?”
“If you do not know, perhaps you are indeed ignorant and innocent in this contemptible affair. Very well, then, allow me to inform you. I received a report of an alarming nature two days ago, and it concerns you, sir. I was told that the whole countryside surrounding Longbourn is waiting in confident expectation of soon hearing the announcement of your engagement to Miss Bennet! There, now you see what has me in such a state. I naturally took the report as a scandalous falsehood and went straight to the source to silence any further gossip.”
William apparently required a moment to take this in, but he looked far less displeased than one (at least one disgruntled aunt) might have expected. Instead of outraged exclamations, as Mama obviously required, he only said, “I take it your efforts were somehow frustrated.”
“Darcy, how can you be so calm while the family name is being dragged through the dirt?”
“I have heard no evidence of that as yet, Lady Catherine, but I am ready to listen to whatever else you have to say. Miss Bennet failed to give you satisfaction?”
“Yes, in the extreme! I rue the day I distinguished her with my notice and condescension, receiving her at Rosings as I did. I surely would not have, had I suspected her true character. She has presumed upon my kindness and yours. And when I questioned her, she refused to oblige me at every turn. She not only denied she had originated and circulated the rumor herself – when common sense clearly shows that to be the obvious explanation – she even claimed to have never heard such a rumor before.”
“Perhaps that is true; I have never heard it myself.”
“If that were the case, then why would she make such a point of defending the idea?”
“Miss Bennet defended the rumor?”
“Not the rumor itself. I did finally force her to admit that no engagement currently existed, but she argued against its being an impossible match and flatly refused to promise never to accept you. And this after I informed her of your understanding with Anne! Can you imagine?”
“Yes, I believe I can,” William said slowly. He turned to look at me and winked in a way Mama could not see. “What about you, Anne?” he said. “You have seen enough of Miss Bennet to form an opinion. Can you imagine her behaving in such a disobliging way?”
It was pleasant to be treated by my cousin as a trusted coconspirator, a valued friend and confidant with a shared secret. I quickly apprehended that Mama’s information was not having the effect she intended. Instead of being appalled by Elizabeth’s reported conduct, William appeared… Well, I suppose he appeared hopeful.
Although I had intended to stay out of the fray, looking at William, I found myself saying, “Miss Bennet is a spirited young lady. I believe she is not one to be easily intimidated when she feels herself to be in the right.”
William smiled at me. “Exactly,” he said.
“But she is most definitely not in the right in this case,” countered Mama, “and her failure to admit it shows a very unbecoming obstinacy, a dangerous degree of willfulness, and a total disregard for the claims of duty, honor, and gratitude. And so I told her. The idea of such a girl having pretensions to marry into a noble family is… Well, I refuse to lower myself by using such language. You must have nothing more to do with her, Darcy. She has shown herself to be an unprincipled person; that should be reason enough to shun her. Beyond that, visiting Longbourn or even Netherfield again will only fuel these noxious rumors.”
“I think you overestimate their power, Aunt,” William said calmly. “If there is not foundation, rumors of this sort die away soon enough.”
“I wish I could agree with you, Nephew, but I will not have the honor of the family subjected to such a test. I will not have my daughter’s name or yours sullied by the gossip of the lower orders. No, the only solution is a clean break. Promise me you will never see that young woman or any of her relations again. Since she refused to give me satisfaction, sir, you must!”
Whereas Mama had stopped her pacing before making her final demand, my cousin now commenced his. William did not reply at once. His looks in my direction showed me he understood that how he answered could put me in an uncomfortable position, even more so than himself. He could walk away in the end and never see Mama again if necessary; I did not have that luxury. Still, I gave him a little nod of encouragement. There would be unpleasantness whenever the truth came out; it mattered little whether it was that day or another.
“Come now, Darcy,” Mama prompted. “This is not a difficult thing I ask of you, only what you owe to yourself and all the family. Not long ago you acknowledged the careful designs set in place for your future and assured me of your good understanding with Anne. This is simply the necessary extension of that commitment.”
At last, William came to rest. He drew a deep breath and spoke respectfully, but firmly. “Lady Catherine, in that conversation to which you refer, I told you I would always endeavor to do my duty and also to please my family whenever possible. I still stand by that statement.”
“There, now,” Mama said with a firm nod.
“But that does not mean I concur with all the rest you have said. I will on no account allow you or anybody else to dictate to me where my duty lies and how I must perform it. Nor will I allow any person to tell me whom I may see and whom I may not. In fact, I agree with Miss Bennet in standing up to this kind of interference, whether it comes from a stranger or a near relation.”
Mama opened her mouth with an objection, but William held up his hand to forestall it.
“You have had your say, and now it is my turn.” When he was certain she was listening, he went on. “I am truly sorry if it pains you, Aunt, but it seems there is no avoiding it now. Since you press the issue, it is time you became aware of the nature of my understanding with your daughter. It is something other than what you have presumed. Out of our mutual respect, Anne and I have agreed to each free the other from any perceived obligation to what our parents once planned for us. Therefore, Anne is not to consider herself bound to me, and I am also at liberty to make a different choice if I like. I hope I shall choose wisely. What constitutes a wise choice in a mate, however, may depend on factors beyond what you can comprehend.
“Miss Bennet has been truthful with you; we are not engaged. I agree with something else she told you, however. There would be nothing impossible or disreputable in such a match. She is the daughter of a respectable gentleman, and I have never seen anything in her own conduct to censure. That is all that I require. Anything more speaks of avarice and unbecoming ambition.”
Mama could be held at bay no longer.
“But her nearest relations – low connections everywhere, a mother totally in want of decorum, and a sister whose marriage came too late and only at the behest of others. Heaven and earth, Darcy! Are the very shades of Pemberley to be soiled by such as these? Are these people to henceforth make up the chief part of your innocent sister’s society?”
“These are things for me to decide, Aunt, not you. Perhaps I shall marry Miss Bennet and perhaps I shall not. That is really none of your affair. It is just possible, you know, that she would refuse me. Same as you, she may be put off the match for fear of acquiring unpleasant family connections.”
After an exclamation of disgust, Mama turned to me in desperation. “Say something, Anne! It is your future being thrown away here. Everything I have planned, everything I have hoped and strived for… I have done it all for you and your happiness. Think carefully before casting it aside like so much rubbish.”
Here was my last opportunity to change my mind, to attempt to correct the course William and I had recently diverted to. If I had any hope of saving my supposed betrothal to him, I must speak now. Otherwise, the chance to wed my cousin would be gone for good like so much castoff rubbish, just as Mama had said.
But no, that was untrue. I was not treating my connection with William as rubbish. By releasing him to follow his heart, I was doing a far better thing.
So I said, “I appreciate your solicitude on my behalf, Mama, but I will not be made happy by my cousin marrying me against his will. If he chooses to wed Miss Bennet or somebody else, I shall be the first to wish them both joy.”
His eyes shining, William took my hand and kissed it.
The confrontation having run its course, with little more to be gained on either side by its continuance, Mama and I abruptly departed.
Ooh! I love that you are showing us this scene, Shannon! We know Lady Catherine’s meeting with Elizabeth Bennet so well, it is interesting to see her exchange with Mr. Darcy afterwards! I can only imagine the emotions coursing through Mr. Darcy at such an interview! Love how Anne speaks up to her mother!
Connect with Shannon
Shannon kindly brings with her 1 paperback (open to US residents) and 1 ebook copy (open worldwide) of The Ladies of Rosings Park for me to randomly give away to TWO lucky readers. Woot Woot!!!
To enter this giveaway leave a comment, a question, or some love for Shannon!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide (paperback US only). Thank you, Shannon!
- This giveaway ends March 30th!