Today I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for the lovely Linda Beutler's latest release, Longbourn to London. My thanks must also go to Jakki of Leatherbound Reviews for asking me to be part of this tour.
Linda is going to tell us a little about her inspiration behind this story.
"A courtship is a journey of discovery, but what do we know of the official betrothal of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet? We may assume there were awkward social events to navigate, tedious wedding arrangements to negotiate, and Bingley’s toplofty sisters to accommodate. How did Darcy and Elizabeth manage these travails, and each other?
Longbourn to London is not a Pride and Prejudice “what if,” nor is it a sequel. Rather, it is an expansion of the betrothal of Jane Austen’s favorite couple. We follow Lizzy’s journey from spirited maiden scampering about the fields of Hertfordshire to nervous, blushing bride in Mayfair, where she learns the unexpected joys of marriage to a man as willing to be teased as she is to tease him.
Join us as IPPY award-winning author Linda Beutler (2013 Silver Medal, Independent Publishers Awards, for The Red Chrysanthemum) imagines the betrothal and early honeymoon of Jane Austen’s greatest couple.
Includes mature content."
Sophie, thanks so much for the opportunity to connect with you and your readers!
Imagining a Courtship
By Linda Beutler, author of Longbourn to London; The Red Chrysanthemum
We are told so little of the betrothal period of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, but by the end of Pride and Prejudice, we know their characters thoroughly. The depth of Darcy’s love for Elizabeth, as evidenced by his patience and sacrifice, is truly swoon-worthy.
Her love, as I read it, hinges upon his letter to her at Hunsford, revealing a man who cares so deeply he is willing to explain everything—a momentous surprise she eventually memorizes, literally absorbing it into her whole being.
And the second event that opens Lizzy’s heart is her visit to Pemberley. Seeing the grandeur of the estate brings home to her how much he loved her. We have no evidence anywhere in the story that either she or he doubted her ability to become a proper mistress to Pemberley. There she sees his portrait, and muses upon how her personality would have enhanced his. To me, at that moment, it all comes together…she is in love with him, too.
Once we have a second proposal, followed by a couple of key conversations, all becomes vague and hurried, just when THIS modern reader—me!—wants to learn more of the events that bond them as a couple. I am not alone in this. Even my mother, re-reading P & P five years ago for the first time in 50 years, said, “It’s all so rushed and unsatisfying at the end.”
In Longbourn to London, my goal was to explore those six weeks; to fill the time with details and to examine how their families and friends would have responded to Lizzy and Darcy as an engaged couple. As a novel, it really isn’t much of a plot, I freely admit. None-the-less, it was great fun to great a P & P story that didn’t have to include Wickham, or the Hunsford proposal, or the cat-fight with Lady Catherine. All of these things were already written by Jane Austen, and I only needed to reference them as memories.
Bingley and Jane, being betrothed a bit longer than Lizzy and Darcy, lead the way to watching other minor characters respond. I tried to keep everyone “in character”. Bingley is giddy, Jane is serene. Caroline Bingley eventually has a meltdown, but her sister and brother-in-law, the Hursts, are more pragmatic about their adjustment to Lizzy and Darcy, and begin to court Lizzy’s favor as well as Darcy’s. Mrs. Bennet loves the idea of Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy a good bit more that she actually loves her daughter, and becomes slightly obsessed with everyone’s pre-wedding health. Aunt Phillips is a harrowing advisor, while Aunt Gardiner provides more useful advice. Mr. Bennet is moved to become a bemused hero for his favorite daughter.
As I am not very keen on the introduction of loads of new characters to P & P “what-ifs” (those of you who have read The Red Chrysanthemum will already have guessed as much), the only unknowns here are Mrs. Chawton, the housekeeper of the Darcys’ London residence, and Sarah, the housemaid chosen by Darcy to become Lizzy’s lady’s maid for their week in London. Mrs. Chawton is similar to Mrs. Reynolds at Pemberley. Sarah is in awe of the opportunity she has been granted, but given Lizzy’s ability to form firm bonds with sisters and friends, turning to Sarah as a confidant is second nature for the new mistress of Darcy House.
As the secondary characters flutter around Darcy and Lizzy, our dear couple remains the core of the story. They begin exchanging secrets. Lizzy teases Darcy, as we expect, and is delighted as he sharpens his wit on her. She watches with astonishment as Darcy makes himself somewhat more open to her family, and he is concerned to distraction when he realizes the married women of the neighborhood are filling his bride-to-be with wedding night jitters.
Speaking of which… yes, I take up the development of their physical relationship in no small way, starting in the very first chapter with their very first kiss. To be honest, if mature content is not your cup of tea, Longbourn to London might be a difficult read. Rather than saving most of the “hot parts” for the end of the story, dreams and musings on the topic are woven throughout, and it is impossible to say “skip the last three chapters” or “mind your step around chapters three and seven and thirteen…” or some such. In the first place, what else does Darcy have to think about when the wedding details mainly fall to Lizzy, Jane, and Mrs. Bennet? And as for Lizzy, she has her Aunt Phillips to contend with. Lizzy is not allowed to ignore the coming of her wedding night, even should she wish it.
There you have it, Sophie and your Laughing Lizzies… I can’t say much more without the liberal sprinkling of spoilers! Thanks so much for the opportunity to explain a bit of my “process” and the undeniable inclination to “expand” Pride and Prejudice.
Author Blog: http://lindabeutler.merytonpress.com
Thank you Linda for explaining you inspiration for this story and why you wanted to explore their courtship more. I am with you - my favourite chapters are when they are engaged and so I always like to read more about that time!
My thanks again goes to Linda Beutler for this post and to Jakki for setting up this tour!
I wish Lindal all the best with this latest release as well as any stories in the future!
Your affectionate friend,