I’ve spent some time again this week watching period drama music videos between my editing and writing time — partially because I love them and partially because I needed a bit of inspiration as I began a new writing project, which I am excited to tell you about. In fact, I am so excited, that the “excerpt” today is a full chapter.
Wantingyounear. “Mansfield Park – Friend of Mine.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Apr. 2007. Web. 13 May 2017.
However, before I get to the new story, I will give you a quick update on a couple of other stories. At All Costs is getting very nearly ready to be published. In fact, I expect it will be available on May 25, which is about a week later than I had hoped. But I really want Better than She Deserved to be ready at the same time, and by pushing the publication date out by a week, I think I will be able to accomplish that. Remember, that short novelette is going to be published but also used as a mailing list perk — for new subscribers and those with the excellent taste to already be part of that list. 😀 Be watching your inboxes both for info about a limited number of ARC’s for At All Cost and for your copy of Better Than She Deserved.
Now, on to the shiny new story.
At the beginning of the year, one of my goals was to write an Austenesque story — a story that had elements based on one of Austen’s novels but original characters and plot. When I came to the end of Caroline’s story, the time just felt right for crossing that goal off of my list — no matter how anxious the thought of stepping out of the comfort of JAFF stories with its familiar palette of characters and plots as a base on which to build and instead, having a nearly blank canvas asking me to fill it with colour and form — with life and love.
I say the canvas is nearly blank because I am not leaving Jane behind — these stories will be categorized in my Touches of Austen series of books.
A Touches of Austen story will incorporate small touches from some Jane Austen Novel. The one I am writing right now will pay homage to Mansfield Park. The heroine in this story, Beatrice Tierney, will share some characteristics with Fanny Price. The hero, Graeme Clayton, is loosely based on Tom Bertram — yes, Tom and not Edmund. Gasp! I couldn’t believe it either. I am a big Fanny and Edmund fan – and I had planned to match Bea with the younger of the Clayton brothers, but Graeme is not Tom, and his brother, Everett, is not Edmund. And Beatrice is not Fanny. So who are these characters? Here’s what I have at the moment. However, you should be aware that these are working notes and subject to change as necessary.
|The Tierney Family of Heathcote
|Father: Captain Tierney (navy)
Mother: Mrs. Tierney
Son: Maxwell (Max) Tierney (25, best friends with Everett Clayton)
Daughter: Beatrice (Bea) Tierney ( 19, sweet and quiet, wishes to please, was a daddy’s girl so took the loss of her father hard, suffered a fever when young and has some lasting effects from it)
Cousins who are visiting: Felicity (youngest, 17) and Grace (19, eldest and betrothed) Love
|The Clayton family of Stratsbury Park||Father: Sir (needs a name) Clayton
Mother: Lady Clayton
1st Son: Graeme (27, more on the wild side ─ just too fun-loving)
2nd Son: Everett (25, looking for a wife before he takes his orders)
Can you see some of the influences of Austen in that list? In addition to these touches of Austen, I have decided to set this story in 1814, which is the year Mansfield Park was published.
So, now, would you like a peek at Graeme and Beatrice in action? How about a look at the first chapter as it is right now? Click the link to keep reading, and let me know what you think of the story so far. Do you see any other nods to Mansfield Park? And, after reading, can you see why I chose to share the song I did today? (Oh, and please ignore the errors — this has not been edited much at this point.)
STORY EXCERPT from (it has no title just yet):
Beatrice Tierney blew out a breath and settled back against the tree, attempting to find a comfortable position in which to read her book. She swatted at a fly and allowed her eyes to follow her brother, Maxwell, and his friend Everett Clayton stroll along the paths of the garden at Stratsbury Park.
The weather was not warm but not unbearably so. A breeze occasionally fluttered the hem of her skirt and tried to turn the pages of her book for her. All in all it would be a perfect summer day, if it were not for her cousins, Felicity and Grace Love. Bea’s lips twitched with displeasure as she turned her attention back to the page she had read twice already.
“Difficult passage?” Graeme Clayton stood looking down at her. He chuckled as her lips puckered into a deeper scowl. He knew very well that Bea was not short on intelligence. She may be quiet, but it was not due to lack of intellect. In fact, when she did open her mouth and speak on any subject, her comments were often impressively well-thought out. She studied things ─ mulled them over, and then, having decided she had a good grasp of her ideas, she might decide to share them. Though equally, as often, she would smile softly, raise a brow, and remain silent. It perplexed him how she could keep her opinions to herself so often. Today, he had been watching her for the past twenty minutes as she attempted to read and not watch his brother and Miss Felicity Love. She had sighed and shook her head often, and the pages of her book had not flipped in all that time.
As quickly as the scowl had formed on her lips, it melted away into the pleasant expression she wore in company when she would rather be elsewhere but did not wish to offend. She was about to deny there was any issue at all ─ much as she always did. People were allowed to put upon her, but she was never allowed to acknowledge it. Not that anyone had ever scolded her into such a belief — no, it was a quality which was inherent to her very nature. Others must be attended to and made at ease before Beatrice ever attended to her own ease or pleasure.
“No, the passage is not difficult. I was just distracted by the excellence of the weather.” It was not entirely false, she told herself. There was a fly that had bothered her, and the wind had rustled her pages.
Graeme took a seat next to her and snatched her book out of her hands. “Your distraction has nothing to do with my brother?” he asked as he snapped her book closed on her marker. Ah, there was her look of panic — a slight widening of the eyes and sharp, though quiet, inhale of breath.
Though they were only neighbours, Bea and her brother had spent so many hours in company with Graeme and Everett that Graeme felt he knew the Tierney siblings almost as well as he knew his own brother. Well, only neighbours was perhaps not the most accurate way to describe who the Tierneys were to the Claytons. Captain Tierney and Sir Clayton had been friends since childhood, and when the captain had come into some money — enough to buy a small estate for his family — he had settled on Heathcote which was not more than four miles from Stratsbury Park. Sir Clayton had promised his friend when last Captain Tierney had gone to sea that he would see to the care of Mrs. Tierney as well as Max and Bea if something unfortunate should befall the captain. As fate would have it, the unfortunate did befall the captain, and he had never returned from sea.
Seeing he was likely to get no more reply from Bea than a small shrug of her shoulder, Graeme pressed on. “Miss Love is very pretty. How old is she now?”
Bea heaved a sigh. “Felicity is nineteen just as I am, and her sister, Grace is seventeen.”
“Both out?” He asked, moving her book away from the hand that attempted to reclaim it. He was not leaving this spot today without finding out if his suspicions about Bea’s feeling for his brother were correct.
“Yes,” Bea’s lips stretched into a thin smile. “I have been regaled with the delights of the season several times since their arrival a fortnight ago.”
Graeme shifted, placing the book on the grass next him and stretching out his legs. “Will you be going to town this next season? I could make a good number of introductions for you, and even with your modest dowry, I believe, we could find you a suitable husband.” He had not even finished speaking before her head was shaking back and forth. “You will not go? I thought Max said he had put enough aside to give you a bit of a season.”
“I do not wish to go.” The thought of pressing into crowded ballrooms held no particular fascination to her. She was content to attend the occasional country assembly or private ball.
“It will be harder to find a gentleman here.” He tipped his head and studied her face carefully. “There is always Bath. Mother has been forever begging father to take her there, and I am certain she would enjoy taking you along. She does enjoy your company.”
The idea of going to Bath with Lady Clayton was not without some appeal for Bea. She did love the smell of the ocean. It was likely something she had inherited from her dear father. She ran a finger absent-mindedly along the chain that held the pendant containing a lock of his hair that he had given her as a present when she was nine, one year before he had died.
“Wear it until you have a lock from your love to replace it, my dear,” he had said as he hung it around her neck.
And she would, for it reminded her of the love she wished to claim one day. Her parents had been so deeply in love. That was the sort of love she sought. Her eyes and heart turned back to the four individuals walking in the garden.
“Everett is planning one last go of the season before he takes his position.”
Bea nodded. “I know.”
“Unless, of course, he finds a lady before then. Perhaps Miss Love will be capable of finally snaring him. Many have tried, you know. He is a handsome devil — much like his older brother.”
Bea chuckled. “He is, at least, more humble than his brother,” she chided.
“So you do not deny that the Clayton brothers are handsome?” Graeme teased.
She rolled her eyes. “I am not blind,” she said with a light swat to his arm.
“Neither am I,” Graeme retorted.
Bea’s brows furrowed. Whatever was he attempting to say?
“I am not speaking of being blind to my own comeliness,” he smiled at her. “For I assure you that I know precisely how fetching I look.” He winked and then chuckled as she rolled her eyes. It was always a joy to provoke her just enough to get a small response as he had just gotten. “I see many things clearly. For instance, I can see that Miss Love and Miss Grace are attractive and well-skilled in all the arts required to capture a husband.” He shrugged. “There are many such ladies in London. If they wish a desired outcome, they will do their best to achieve it no matter the ploys and scheming necessary.”
He nodded in response to her questioning look. “A fellow has to tread carefully. However, that is not all I see clearly.”
“It is not?” Bea always enjoyed discussions with Graeme. He often cared less about propriety when speaking with her than her brother and Everett did. But then, he was naturally more daring in most things, and if she believed her cousins, a bit of a rake when in town. Not a complete rake, but enough of one to have mother’s watching closely whenever he asked for a waltz or a stroll in the garden. So, to hear his opinion on things such as matchmaking would likely prove entertaining, if not informative.
“No, it is not.” He crossed his arms and leaned against the trunk of the tree, his shoulder brushing against hers. “I also see the way you look at my brother, and frankly, he is a fool to ignore you. I would not ignore a lady of beauty and good character such as yourself if she was to look at me so longingly.” He pressed his lips together to keep from chuckling at the quick breath she drew. He had shocked her just as he had planned.
“I do no such thing,” Bea refuted weakly.
“Lying does not become you, my beautiful Bea.”
“Do not call me that. I am not beautiful.”
He peeked over at her. Her cheeks were aflame as he knew they would be. “My dear, if there is one thing I know, it is beautiful women, and you are definitely beautiful — beguiling even when you blush so prettily.” He reached out a hand and grabbed her arm to prevent her from jumping to her feet and running away. Bea did not like compliments of her person or even her actions. She preferred to fade into the background — to act without recognition or praise. Qualities that would serve a parson’s wife well, but also qualities that made it easy for a numbskull like his brother to overlook her. “Now,” he said, holding her arm firmly as she tried to pull it out of his grasp, “as I have said, I am of the belief that my brother is an idiot and Miss Love is a grasping…” he cleared his throat, “something that is not appropriate for a lady’s ears.”
Bea’s eyes grew wide, and her head tilted as she looked out toward where Felicity was talking in a very animated fashion to her sister while clinging to Everett’s arm.
“I saw both her and her sister in London,” Graeme whispered near Bea’s ear.
“Then, why did you ask me if they were both out?” She gasped as his lips brushed her cheek when she turned her head.
He smirk and shrugged. “I am a cad and wished to hear your opinion of them.”
“Which I did not give,” she pulled on her arm again, finally freeing it from his hold.
“Oh, but you did,” he replied. “Your tone and the shortness of your replies told me all I need to know. You are not pleased with them — well, Miss Love in particular since she is the one who has enchanted my brother.”
“I have never enjoyed my cousins,” she replied. “We have little in common. But, you have never been home when they visited before, so you would not know.”
He chuckled. “Deny it if you must, but you are jealous.” He climbed to his feet and extended a hand to her.
Bea looked at his hand warily.
“Come, you cannot sit here the full day. Mother will wish to know you took some exercise. She worries about you.”
Her brows furrowed as she studied his face. His smile was sweet and not filled with mischief as it had been earlier, and Lady Clayton would likely ask if she had taken at least two turns of the garden before disappearing into her novel. “You will not say shocking things, and your lips will not touch me?”
A touch of mischief touched his smile once again. “You know I am constitutionally incapable of not saying something shocking at some point, but I shall refrain from touching any part of you other than your fingers with my lips.”
Bea sighed and shook her head, but she could not keep the amusement she felt at his comments from curling her lips into a small smile. She placed her hand in his and allowed him to help her to her feet.
“Good heavens,” he muttered as he pulled her upright, “if my brother does not marry you, I might. When you smile like that, it is difficult to not wish to break my promise to confine my lips to just your fingers.” He winked as her mouth dropped open. “As I said, I am constitutionally incapable of not being shocking.” He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. He was teasing her, of course — at least, partially. She was both beautiful and beguiling and were she not so obviously lovesick for his brother and were she not Bea, his friend and the closest thing he had to a sister, he would be hard pressed not to consider her as the next Lady Clayton.