Happy Friday, readers! I am so happy to welcome back author Lona Manning to Austenesque Reviews today! Lona was here last year to celebrate her first release – a Mansfield Park variation titled A Contrary Wind! Which I loved (see here)! And now, today, a sequel to that variation is being released! (Woot woot!) Lona is here today to share an excerpt from her new release, A Marriage of Attachment!
This excerpt from A Marriage of Attachment features a flashback to a scene from Mansfield Park, as Edmund falls in love with Mary Crawford while walking through the grounds at Sotherton.
Edmund dipped his quill in his ink, and paused, looking up from his blank sheet of paper to gaze out of the window. He recalled when Mary’s brother Henry suggested they build a garden “at what is now the back of the house; which will be giving it the best aspect in the world, sloping to the south-east. The ground seems precisely formed for it.” Henry used to pique himself on his abilities as a landscape designer, and the Crawfords and Bertrams once travelled together to the country home of his sister’s fiancé Mr. Rushworth, so Henry could advise on improvements to his grounds. The visit to the gardens of Sotherton turned out to be anything but innocent for all of the young people hovering on the brink of love or desire. Henry had flirted with Julia all the way there, and, once arrived, had transferred his attentions to Maria. And Mary had discovered that Edmund intended to be a clergyman. Her reaction to this news, ought to have taught Edmund to guard his heart from her. Instead, she had bewitched him.
Edmund recalled, with painful clarity, how delightful Mary had been, when he and she and Fanny strolled through the patch of forest known as the Wilderness. When Fanny, pleading fatigue, had asked to rest for a while, he immediately found a bench; he warmly urged the ladies to sit down, and his heart beat faster when Mary declined, saying, in her delightfully contrary way, that ‘resting fatigues me.’
The opportunity was so fair and so was she. They left Fanny behind and walked along the secluded footpaths, which curved and wound about until they found themselves at a side gate which led to a broad oak avenue, one of the approaches to the manor itself. Mary was still playfully arguing with him about how long they had been walking in the Wilderness, and how far they had come.
“You may put your watch away, Mr. Bertram. I have now walked long enough to want some rest—so, since I am never tired, it does follow that we have covered a prodigious distance,” she said.
“If my watch does not refute you, perhaps the poet will.” Edmund recalled some lines from Cowper:
We tread the wilderness, whose well-roll’d walks,
With curvature of slow and easy sweep—
Deception innocent—give ample space
To narrow bounds.
“‘Ample space to narrow bounds,’” Mary repeated. “One is reminded of Hamlet: ‘I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space.’ Not I. I should hate to be confined. Even these noble trees crowd in upon me.”
Mary spread her shawl on the grass under one of broadest oaks, and they sat down together in its welcome shade.
“You are correct in what you said, Mr. Bertram,” said she, pointing down the avenue. “The house is ill-placed. If only it had been situated at the crest of the valley, instead of the bottom! How much more could be done to improve the setting! Sotherton must have a decidedly gloomy aspect in winter.”
“It is highly pleasing to me, just at present.”
A sideways smile awarded his attempt at gallantry.
“I think you have almost blundered upon some repartee, Mr. Bertram, and I will own myself flattered.”
“You are generous to admit the sentiment while overlooking the lack of eloquence which clothed it. Well then, Miss Crawford, do you think your brother will recommend that this avenue be taken down?”
“I think he would sweep everything away—the gates, the walls, the hedges, to open up the view as much as possible. He would return it to a state of untouched nature—-which is an exacting business, as you know, for these so-called natural landscapes are the product of artifice.”
“And how about you, Miss Crawford?” Edmund could not resist asking. “Would a scene of rustic simplicity please you? Could you be satisfied to contemplate such a view every morning, or would you prefer to look out at a busy London street, thronged with carriages, wagons, bawling costermongers, pushing throngs? I think I see your eyes brighten at the thought.”
“You must allow there is more variety to be found in the city, Mr. Bertram—more variety of company, more diversions of all sorts—plays, concerts, lectures—and more opportunities to distinguish oneself—more avenues for happiness, in short. Here I see only one avenue—this heavy and respectable line of oaks marching sedately along. The quiet and the peace is enchanting at present, and will do very well, just for the moment that is—not for a lifetime, certainly!”
“Cowper disagrees with you there,” said Edmund, taking a mock-heroic pose and declaiming:
He is the happy man whose life e’en now
Shows somewhat of that happier life to come
Who, doomed to an obscure but tranquil state
Would make his fate his choice—”
“Fiddlesticks! If the poet really believed that obscurity breeds felicity, he would not have sought fame by publishing his poem! It is in our natures to seek immortality, Mr. Bertram.”
Edmund smiled. “I will concede, the notion that the greatest happiness is to be found in rural simplicity, is a too-common poetic conceit amongst our men of letters.”
“And amongst educated men who ought to—” Mary stopped herself and laughed. “The day is too lovely for quarrelling, Mr. Bertram. Although disputing with you has brought me more pleasure than I’ve known while exchanging compliments with many another gentleman. Why should this be?”
Edmund wondered if she knew how ardently he wished to fold her in his arms there and then, how he wanted to kiss her with passionate intensity. And no wonder cousin Fanny was completely forgotten on her park bench, for quite some time longer!
Ah, well. They had talked and quarrelled and quarrelled and talked for the better part of a year, and then she married him. And then she left him.
Oh, poor Edmund! I do feel bad for him and how things ended up! I wonder if there is a chance of happiness for him.
~ Book Description ~
A Marriage of Attachment continues the story of Fanny Price as she struggles to build her own life after leaving her rich uncle’s home. Fanny teaches sewing to poor working-class girls in London, while trying to forget her first love, Edmund Bertram, who is trapped in a disastrous marriage with Mary Crawford. Together with her brother John and her friend, the writer William Gibson, she discovers a plot that threatens someone at the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, Fanny’s brother William fights slavery on the high seas while longing for the girl he loves.
Filled with romance, suspense and even danger, A Marriage of Attachment takes the familiar characters from Mansfield Park on a new journey.
Ooooo I love the sound of this Mansfield Park sequel, especially since it promises a hint of romance for William Price!
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