The ink was barely dry on novels number six and seven (Leap of Hope and Leap of Faith) when I started work on number eight, entitled The Ladies of Rosings Park – my favorite story with a fresh take!
I wanted to tell events during the timelines of P&P and then on into The Darcys of Pemberley as seen primarily through the eyes of Anne de Bourgh alternating with Lady Catherine. (But even Charlotte and Mrs. Jenkinson get their chances to speak too!) As you might imagine, the mother’s take on things will be a little different than the daughter’s, and Lady Catherine, of course, is never wrong!
I had a boatload of questions to answer along the way: What did the Rosings ladies think of Elizabeth Bennet when she came on the scene? Who first detected the danger she represented to the supposed engagement between Anne and Darcy? Was Anne heartbroken, relieved, or indifferent to discover Darcy would marry Elizabeth instead? And what becomes of Anne afterward? As an heiress, even a sickly one, she must have other suitors. Does Lady Catherine accept the defeat of her original plan gracefully or keep conniving? What about Anne’s health? Does it ever improve? And what really happened to her father? He’s absent and presumably dead, but is that all there is to the story? Hmm. I wonder.
The novel will be out early next year, but I’ll begin posting chapters here at Austen Variations in January. Here’s the prologue to give you a small taste, and at the bottom there’s a preview of the cover artwork!
Two things Anne de Bourgh understood from a very early age: first, that she was loved by her father, and second, that she would one day marry Fitzwilliam Darcy.
These unalterable facts served as the sure foundation of her young life. If her mother censured some weakness in her character or deportment, Anne could depend on finding unconditional approval in her other parent. When she might have been tempted to fret for her future prospects, especially in light of her sickly constitution, she was reassured that an excellent match had already been made for her. Her continued social consequence and connubial contentment were secure.
“My sister and I arranged it all between ourselves,” Lady Catherine frequently told her only child, sometimes varying her exact words but never her conclusion. “And the men mean to make no difficulty about it. When the time comes, you shall marry your cousin. It is not only the cherished wish of your mother and aunt, it is a solemn promise and therefore to be considered a settled engagement. The two great estates will thus be united. There could be no connection more highly desirable on either side, no alliance more perfectly natural.”
Anne, being still too young to understand the mysteries of love between a man and a woman, could see no reason to question her mother’s decree on the subject, especially since her dear papa concurred when pressed. “It will be a fine thing for you,” he had said with conviction if not enthusiasm. “A fine thing indeed, my pet.”
No evidence to the contrary, Anne believed she should be as happy with her cousin as with any other man. Had he not always been kind to her?
But nothing lasts forever, it seems, not even sure foundations. One pillar of support crumbled when Anne’s father suddenly died a month short of her fourteenth birthday. A few years later, the other – her betrothal to Fitzwilliam Darcy – was cast into serious jeopardy upon the arrival at Rosings of a young woman named Elizabeth Bennet.
I hope you’re intrigued. If so, you can read another preview chapter here: the exchange of “frank” letters between Darcy and Lady Catherine about his engagement to Elizabeth.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end.
And finally, here’s the cover art for the book:
It now goes to my cover designer so he can work his magic!