Archive | March 2014

Another sneak preview of my book. Mr Darcy’s Struggle


Elizabeth enjoyed an early breakfast and then went straight to Jane’s room to help her prepare for Mr Bingley’s visit. He’d whispered to her last evening, while Darcy and Elizabeth were in the library, that he needed to speak with her most urgently on the morrow, and would it be quite convenient for him to pay an early call? Shyly Jane had acquiesced. The gentlemen thanked Mrs Bennet for a pleasant evening and then left to return to Netherfield. As the hour was late everyone retired, except for Mrs Bennet. She had slipped into Jane’s room and began instructing her on what actions and expressions she should make to encourage a proposal from Mr Bingley. It had been a most uncomfortable few minutes leaving poor Jane quite upset, indeed she had fretted until she fell asleep. The next morning she was still upset, and Elizabeth was annoyed at how thoughtless her mama had been. Seeking to offer her sister some reassurance she told her.
“Jane, Mr Bingley fell in love with you when you were just being yourself. Continue in this vein and he will not be disappointed I assure you. Mama will not be present and so will have no knowledge if you choose to ignore her directions. Come, wear the dress she indicated and she will be certain that you are adhering to her council.”
Jane wished she had as much common sense and foresight as Elizabeth. She donned the pale eggshell blue dress adorned with the small white baby breath flowers as instructed by her mother. Then Elizabeth and Cissy dress Jane’s hair in a simple but becoming style. At last they were ready to go down and await the arrival of their guests. They had barely seated themselves in the parlour before Mrs Bennet joined them and began fussing over Jane.
“Now I have told the other girls to stay in their rooms until I send for them, I am sure we can do without their giggling for one morning. Sit up straight girl and remember all I have said. Goodness Jane you look excessively pale’ and she walked over and pinched her cheeks sharply. ‘Bite your lips child, it helps them look plump and inviting” she continued.
“Mama, please!” Jane said casting Elizabeth a pleading look.
“Come mama, let us not be caught unprepared, shall we take our seats now and not have idle hands when Mr Bingley arrives?” Elizabeth said.
Taking her mother by the arm she gently guided her to her favourite armchair.
“You are right Lizzie. We must not look contrived and I would have you at your ease Jane. Just think, two daughters wed. One with five thousand pounds a year and the other with ten thousand, I am so distracted I can scarcely contain myself.’ She effused ‘I cannot wait to tell your aunt Phillips, she will rejoice in our good fortune I know. But as for Charlotte Lucas, who is very plain indeed, she is welcome to Mr Collins I’m sure, they are well suited.”
“Mama, Charlotte is our friend and undeserving of such censure. She is a good match for Mr Collins. Surely you would prefer someone we know to inherited Longbourn rather than a total stranger.” Elizabeth said defending her friend.

Disguise is My Abhorrence.



In my everyday life I try to be an honest person, sometimes even to my own detriment. When the need arises I am reluctant, but not averse, to telling a small white lie, especially if it saves someone pain and doesn’t hurt anyone.

If it’s followed by the words ‘it’s better to know the truth’ or ‘you wouldn’t want me to lie to you’ people seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to hurt ones feelings or conceal information. They even gave it a label, Tough Love. But there’s the rub! Would I sometimes want to be told a little white lie or indeed tell one to spare hurting someone?

’I love my new hair cut don’t you?’ I was recently asked. Actually no, it looks like a pudding basin was put on your head and makes your face look fat.
Did I say that? No! I said “You love it honey that’s great, but maybe add a few layers next time. Love how shiny and healthy it looks too” Was I right to lie?

Now my favourite Jane Austen character, Mr Darcy professes that disguise of every sort is his abhorrence. But is he as honest as he professes? He deceives Bingley as to Jane’s presence in London. He hides Wickham’s true nature from the Bennet’s and conceals Georgiana’s near elopement from all but Colonel Fitzwilliam. We all understand why he felt the need to do these things and it also adds depth to both the story and character, but was there an alternative action he could have taken to keep the integrity of his statement?

When Jane was in London, Darcy and the ugly sisters (OK I know some people love Caroline and Louisa, and I’m sorry if I offend you, but I don’t) concealed this fact from Charles. If, as they suspected she was only after his money it was the right thing to do. Charles broken heart would have undoubtedly mended eventually, and as Jane tells us he is prone to falling in love every few weeks. But surely a discreet enquiry in the right quarter would have revealed the true depth of Jane’s feeling for Mr Bingley. Darcy is after all a rich and powerful man. He must have the resources to ascertain such a simple thing.

The other two events are eternally joined by three characters, Georgiana, Wickham, and Lydia.
Darcy, in full possession of the facts, knows Wickham’s character. Surely he could have taken the time to enlighten Mr Bennet of this? Perhaps then instead of exercising damage control when Lydia eloped it could have been prevented. With both men being ‘Gentlemen’ I am sure Georgiana’s secret would have been kept. And later he trust Elizabeth with this information, is her father any less trustworthy?
Perhaps Richard and Darcy could have told Colonel Foster of his weakness for gambling or his habit of running up debts and then disappearing. Surely a scoundrel like Wickham would not be welcome in his regiment, besmirching its good name?

In hindsight it is easy to find an alternative or remedy for a problem, but when in the midst of one, finding the right solution is not always so cut and dry. Darcy does realise the error in his judgements and rectifies them. In doing so he reverses Elizabeth’s opinion of him and wins the day. Having said all this, I can’t help but feel sorry for Lydia, condemned to a life with Wickham. I feel she is the true victim in Pride & Prejudice. What do you think?

Martine x

Mr Darcy Broke My Heart

Oh No!!! I can’t bear it. For any Pride & Prejudice, Mr Darcy or Lyme House fan it is a sad sad day. The 12ft statue that has lived in the Reflecting Lake at Lyme House (aka Pemberley) for the last 8 months has been sold and is leaving our shores forever. The National Trust in Australia has bought him and he is off to Melbourne. Farewell my love. xx

This entry was posted on 19/03/2014. 1 Comment

Dissecting Darcy & Co.


Now, before you start reading I have to say I Love, Love, Love Jane Austen, and Pride & Prejudice in particular, but let me tell you a story…..
Just the other day, a male relative and I were discussing our love of reading. You can imagine my horror when he told me, proudly, that he had never read any of Jane Austen’s novels. I told him I loved her writings, especially Pride & Prejudice, and felt inspired by her. So much so I now have my own blog and a new book out, (Mr. Darcy’s Struggle, available on Amazon). He declared ‘they would not hold his interest as the characters were too wishy washy for a man.’ His comment set me thinking: are the characters weak? Could some of them be omitted? If so, would it detract from the story at all? There are certainly several characters that we are given leave to dislike as Jane would say. But if I was reading it for the first time, how would I see them?

Let’s start with Caroline Bingley. We all love to hate and ridicule her. Her spiteful comments only endear the recipient to us more. Besides, Miss Austen needed an antagonist in the Darcy camp, and Caroline is perfect placed to be this character. In turn, this is the same reason we have Wickham in Elizabeth’s camp.

Bingleys Sisters

Now we all laugh at the shallow and ambitious Mrs Bennet, constantly trying to push her daughters onto any man of marriageable age with a reasonable income. Love is definitely not a consideration. But in today’s society she would just be a pushy mum, yet isn’t that a trait of any mother, pushing their children to help them secure and settled their future?

Then there is the pompous and domineering Lady Catherine de burgh, who reminds me of an old school ma’am, bossy and dictatorial; let’s be honest, outside the parsonage and her daughter, Anne, she has no effect, with the two main players ignoring her rants completely.

Now we all laugh at the shallow and ambitious Mrs. Bennet, constantly trying to push her daughters onto any man of marriageable age, and with a reasonable income. Love is definitely not a consideration in her eyes. In today’s society, she would be labelled a pushy mum. But isn’t that a trait of any mother, pushing and encouraging their children ever forward, to help them secure a settled future?

Then there is the pompous and domineering Lady Catherine de burgh, who reminds me of an old school ma’am. She’s bossy, dictatorial and oblivious to the wishes of others. Let’s be honest, outside the parsonage and her daughter, Anne, she has no effect. Indeed the two main players, Darcy and Elizabeth, ignoring her rants completely.
Now to Mr. Collins, the fawning subservient, who is in awe of wealth and power whilst secretly desiring it for himself. He thinks nothing of deserting his flock and patroness as soon as he hears of Darcy’s engagement to Elizabeth. Is he laying the foundations in anticipation of his move to Hertfordshire after the demise of poor old, ineffectual Mr. Bennet? I think so. And let’s not forget Charlotte Lucas, who is not such an innocent. We see her seizes the opportunity to secure Mr. Collins affections, only a day after he has proposed to her best friend. She swoops in under the guise of his rescuer, and entices him with her plainness and boring personality, just how Lady Catherine described the perfect wife for her rector. Yes, to call Charlotte Lucas self-serving would be an understatement.

Mr & Mrs Collins

Mr. Bennet is, as I have said previously, an ineffectual parent and neglectful husband. How he fathered five children I can only imagine. Oh, I have no doubt he loves his wife and children, but he only gets involved in their lives when he absolutely has too. Having said that, some of his lines are crucial to the plot of the book. They also go a long way to making him a loveable character. Whichever way you look at him, he does keep our heroine single and, therefore, available for Mr. Darcy. For that reason alone, I like him.

Mr & Mrs Bennet

Now Lydia is the troublesome child we all want to put on the naughty step, or even over out knee for a well-deserved spanking. My frustration at her lack of common sense and consideration is boundless. Her mother has over-indulged her to the detriment of her other children, even when she is the most ridiculous flirt. In most Regency middle/upper class homes, Lydia would have still been in the school room. I can only surmise that Mrs. Bennet was enjoying her life vicariously through Lydia’s wild behavior.

Mr & Mrs Wickham

Which brings me back to Wickham; is he all bad? Or was he the victim of old Mr. Darcy’s meddling? As a boy, he was welcomed into the grand house, sent to expensive schools with the elite, and then promised a fine living. Why would he not think he was entitled to the same considerations as Darcy? Perhaps it would have been kinder to leave him with his working class equals, instead of giving him idea’s above his station.

Then we come to four very likable characters that are crucial to the plot, but don’t have any real substance. Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner only seem to run a bed & breakfast for the Bennet sisters to stay at when in town. But they are needed to take Elizabeth to Derbyshire so she can bump into Darcy, where she sees his gentler side. The handsome Col. Fitzwilliam, who is a decorated soldier, yet appears to dance attendance at the whim of Darcy. He is the one who unwittingly shares Darcy’s confidence about Bingley with Elizabeth, which in turn makes her angry for when Darcy comes to propose at the parsonage. And finally there is the unfortunate Charles Bingley. He is the reason Darcy is in Hertfordshire in the first place. Yes, he is handsome, rich and possesses a cheery personality, but oh my goodness what a damp squib!! Throughout the whole book, I wanted to say to him ‘grow a backbone Charles, fight for the woman you love.’ Even at the end, as he goes off to propose to Jane, he still checks he has Darcy approval, tsk tsk.

Louisa Hurst and her husband are nothing more than window dressing, characters of no substance or worth. If you removed them from the book, there would be very little you would have to change. Louisa’s only role is to be Caroline’s accomplice in malicious chatter. Enough said. Poor Mary, the middle Bennet sister is also surplus to requirements. She can’t sing, is only passable on the piano and sermonizes to all and sundry. Her only hope of a match, in my eyes, would have been the cretinous Mr. Collins. Sadly, Miss Lucas stole that possible opportunity from her.

Mr & Mrs Bingley

Jane is all sweetness and light, and yes a very likable character. She brings us the first hint of a love story, because that is what it is, a love story. She is also Elizabeth’s confidante. This is how we, the reader, learn of Elizabeth’s innermost thoughts and emotional turmoil. But my previous comment about having no backbone also applies to Jane. In polite society, you were expected to return a call within two, or three days at the most. Waiting three weeks was definitely a snub, and Jane knew it.

So that leaves us Darcy and Elizabeth. She is the playful minx who has the hint of a tomboy about her, while still maintaining the persona of a respectable gentlewoman. I think this is part of the attraction for Darcy. No simpering, wet flannel for him! And Darcy, ok I admit I have a crush on him, but I’m a sucker for a bad boy turned good. But let’s face it; he has a lot on his proverbial plate. A huge estate and town house to run, investments to check and oversee, villager to employ, keeping an aunt’s estate on the straight and narrow, constantly bailing out Wickham, as well as raising a sister AND enjoying a busy social life. No wonder he’s a bit grumpy; the poor guy exhausted!! But thankfully Elizabeth is going to rescue him from himself. She now returns his feelings and agrees to marry him. Yay, finally the happy ever after we all love.

Darcy & Elizabeth

Do you think Jane Austen knew a Caroline Bingley, George Wickham or even a Darcy? Some of the set-downs feel quite personal, as if she had seen them acted out in real life. Or maybe she was the recipient of such spiteful barbs, and that’s why she added them to her novels. Perhaps they were added in retaliation, that the perpetrator might know she felt the sting of their words? Who knows?
Well, even after dissecting all the main characters, I find I still love it. I never get tired of watching, reading or listening to it. I’m probably almost word perfect with the dialogue, but isn’t that part of the territory for a Jane Austen fan?

This entry was posted on 18/03/2014. 1 Comment

Mr Darcy’s Struggle. Snippet from my new book.

Having seen Darcy act in this manner once before, she knew he was building up to something. Finally, he stopped before her and said in an exasperated voice,

“Miss Bennet, we are to be wed in two weeks, are we not?”

His formal address worried her. When they were alone he usually called her by her given name, or even Miss Elizabeth, but never Miss Bennet. Couple this with his reference to their wedding, well, she found it quite disturbing. She folded her hands in her lap before calmly replying,

“That is my belief, sir.”

He resumed his pacing. Damn, why will the words not come, he inwardly cursed? She must think me a tongue-tied fool. He stopped to gaze at her; she is quite exquisite, he mused. Like Charles, I am the luckiest of men to have found such a woman. Unlike Charles, I have not yet ‘won’ her. Instead, I lay claim to her by default. Thoughts flashed through his mind until finally, the clouds of confusion lifted. Keep it simple, tell her what you feel, offer her your heart and hope she is willing to accept it. He knew that if he did not give her the choice, he would forever suspect her reasons for marrying him. As much as he wanted her, he would not condemn her to a life of regret. Recalling his mother’s advice when he once nursed a sick deer, ‘if you love something enough, you have to set it free. If it comes back, it is yours forever. If it does not return, it was never yours in the first place,’ Darcy knew what he must do. Drawing a deep breath he began,

“Miss Bennet, I know that you have taken our intended nuptials, as the only recourse open to you after the events at Hunsford, but in all good conscience, I must give you the choice to be free of me,” he said heavily.

He gave her a few seconds to digest his words before continuing,

“I will, of course, take full responsibility for the breakdown of our engagement, should you decide on that course. You could announce that you found me lacking in the social niceties,” he finished with a wry grimace.

Elizabeth raised her brows at the statement. ‘To be free of me,’ she repeated to herself. It was true, she had never expected to be engaged to Mr. Darcy; indeed their betrothal had sprung from her actually refusing him. But after the initial shock, she had grown accustomed to the idea of being his wife. The prospect of being Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley did not daunt her unduly, and came with considerable benefits. Darcy had proved himself to be quite capable of being amicable and civil, and after their recent encounters, she had no reason to believe them incompatible in the bedroom. The thought made her cheeks burn, but it was something she could neither ignore, nor deny.  Breaking the engagement had not crossed her mind since that first day, but clearly it had Darcy’s. Did he find the thought of being bound to her so repellent? If this was indeed the case, she must also give him the opportunity to be free of her. Thankfully, their engagement was not yet common knowledge, and could hopefully be dissolved with little inconvenience to either party. She felt quite strange at the prospect of him releasing her, bereft almost. Choosing her words with care, she replied,

“And is this your wish Mr. Darcy?” her tone even and unrevealing.

Darcy met her gaze and tried to read her face, but it was serene, if a little flushed. He was taken aback at her reply. He had not expected her to answer him with a question. He thought she would be eager to accept his offer, and to break their engagement readily.

“It is not,” he said with vigour, “but I would not have you regret your decision at a later date madam. I am mindful of your reply to my original offer.”

So, he did not want to sever their connection either. Elizabeth was puzzled, why ask now then? It had been more than three weeks since Hunsford, and on several occasions she had allowed him to take liberties that she only ever intended to share with her husband. Was that it? Did he think her wanton, and lacking in the proprieties? But she could not deny having feelings for Mr. Darcy; he had elicited responses, and stirred emotions in her she never knew existed. Examining how she felt on seeing him again after an absence of nearly a week, Elizabeth owned that her heart had beat a little faster, especially when his eyes held hers. She felt a warm glow of satisfaction that he looked at her so. She could think of nothing she had said or done, to indicate that she was reluctant to continue with the engagement. Therefore, she must conclude he was trying to do what he thought was right. Darcy watched as a myriad of emotions played across her face. Was she trying to find the words to accept his offer, to be rid of him? After what seemed an eternity, Elizabeth raised her eyes, and began her reply.

Jane Austen’s Link to Lyme House

Cold but still laughing

Cold but still laughing

Being a huge fan of Jane Austen, I am a little in love with all her leading men, none more so than Mr Darcy. For me Colin Firth is Darcy personified. He appeared in the BBC’s 1995 6 part adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Now don’t worry I am not going to ramble on about Colin in this particular blog. I am instead going to be extolling the virtue of the property they used as his home in the series. The exterior images of Pemberley were shot at Lyme House.

Lyme House and Park are situated in Disley, Cheshire. The house was constructed around 1580 and remained in the Legh family until 1946 when they donated it to the National Trust . The estate comprises of not only the house and formal gardens but also boasts an ex-hunting lodge, deer park, orangey, adventure playground, timber yard, 2 gift shops, a café, a restaurant and not forgetting the Edwardian wardrobe department too. All this is set in 1400 acres of park land.

Over the winter months and to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride & Prejudice, they ran weekend events called The Only Way Is Pemberley. I attended several of these and really enjoyed them. On 16th February, the final day, I dressed up in a borrowed regency dress, cape and bonnet from their wardrobe department, all free of charge. Then Francis took my photo with the Mr Darcy look-a-like that had been hired for the day. It was a dream come true. Matthew Dimbleby is a dead ringer as Mr Darcy. He was extremely accommodating and patient as the visitors queued to have their picture taken with him. He looked every inch the part in his immaculate regency costume. At several locations around the estate were ‘picture ports’. These are open wooden picture frames, and if you took your photographs through these it would give you the exact location used by the film company. These were a great idea, mainly because it freed up the staff from continually being asked for these locations, whilst making it easy for the visitor to find these popular sites. While on the subject of staff I have to commend the workers at Lyme house. Not only were they extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the history of Lyme, but also about the filming and cast of Pride & Prejudice.

Now I am not sure how many of you know this but for the last several months Lyme House has also been the home to the 12ft statue of Mr Darcy. It has been happily sitting in the Reflecting Lake after a short stint in the Serpentine first. Sadly it is now being sold and will most likely be going to the National Trust in Australia. So if you want to see it, time is of the essence!!

My reliable source tells me that some 12,000 visitors enjoyed The Only Way is Pemberley over the last 12 or so weekends. No mean feat during winter. Having spent many very enjoyable days at Lyme House & Park during the last year I can only say I hope they will consider making it an annual event. Well Done Lyme. Very sexy Matthew.
Text and photographs copyright of Lady Martine Roberts & MJRPhotography.

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