I am so happy about next week’s debut of The Unexpected Miss Bennet that I am offering up a chance to win a free copy. Just answer this question in the comments below and I will choose an answer at random:
Which of Jane Austen’s secondary characters should have their own book?
I’ll announce the winner August 1!
In the meantime, here’s a bit of a teaser about “my” Mary Bennet and her Mr. Aikens (bonus points if you know what book Mary is reading):
Mr Aikens wore an ill-fitting coat, and his face was ruddy from his exercise. His hair curled up around his ears, and he had not shaved that morning. He glanced down at the book in her hand.‘Oh! Do you like reading?’
The old Mary would have expounded at length on the virtues of a good book, one in which the liveliest plot was married to the most virtuous of morals. However, this book was one of Georgiana’s novels. There was little about it that was virtuous, though it was lively. So she blushed and said only, ‘Yes. I find it an amusing pastime.’
‘Do you?’ he said, as if thunderstruck. ‘Do you? Why, that is the most unusual thing. I cannot sit still long enough, but must always be up and about. Can’t read a book on the back of a horse.’
‘No, I could not imagine doing so,’ Mary agreed.
‘Extraordinary, that some people like books so much they read them anywhere.’
Mary’s embarrassment began to turn towards irritation. What on earth was so remarkable about a liking for books? ‘I do like to read, Mr Aikens. I find it exercises the mind and can even enrich the soul, if it’s the right book.’ She thought of Fordyce’s Sermons and how often she took comfort in the familiarity of its passages, the way it informed and reinforced her most decided opinions.
‘So what is that one about?’
Oh dear. He had to ask. ‘Oh,’ she said, stumbling over the narrative. ‘This one is rather more exciting than uplifting.’ He waited with a keen expression, so she began to narrate the plot as best she could.‘It is about a girl who is beset on many sides by terrors both real and imagined. She is orphaned and sent to live with a relative who treats her with disdain and forces her to give up her inheritance. She has many adventures,’ she concluded lamely.
‘By Jove! How does she fare?’
‘Oh, Mr Aikens, it’s just a pretty little fiction. Emily St. Aubert doesn’t exist at all.’