Click through to read a bit from Maria on what this would mean to the Bennets (and the ever-important Darcy), read an excerpt of the book, and then enter to win!
I’m very excited to share a little bit about my new book, Remember the Past. Way back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college, my studies centered around sociology, psychology and behavioral sciences. As a result, when I write, I like to explore how things might have been for our favorite Austen characters had their circumstances been a bit different—or a lot different. While I try to keep the core of the characters the same as Jane Austen wrote, changes in circumstances do change people. Some more than others. Some for the better, some, not so much. I love exploring those changes and possibilities.
One of the changes in this book was that Mr. Bennet was not the heir to Longbourn, but a second son who went into the navy. His naval experiences changed him from a lackadaisical man to a very active, powerful one, who would become Admiral Thomas Bennet, Rear Admiral of the White.
Why would a young Thomas Bennet have joined the navy rather than the army as Col. Fitzwilliam did? Unlike army officers, naval officers did not purchase their commissions, they earned them. Thus, the navy offered greater potential for social mobility than most institutions in Regency era society. Generally only the sons of gentlemen or perhaps wealthy middle-class parents could enter the path to becoming an officer, but the way was not entirely closed to others.
Boys would start in the navy as young as 12, as a midshipman, and would attach to a captain—usually a relation or family friend. Hopefully the boy would then earn the captains good opinion and help in attaining promotion. In order to become a lieutenant, the lowest grade of officer, a midshipmen had to serve a minimum of six years at sea. On presenting himself as a candidate for commissioning, he would also be asked to show his personal log books for the ships in which he sailed. Then he would take an examination on the topics of writing, mathematics, astronomy, navigation, seamanship and gunnery. Not all midshipmen passed the test.
Midshipmen passing the examination would then have to apply for commission as a lieutenant on a specific ship. The influence of a powerful friend or family member could open the way for commissioning. If he did not receive a post on the ship he applied for, he would remain a midshipman until he once again applied for a post and received it. Many men were never commissioned. Once a man made lieutenant, the prospect of further promotion, all the way up to Admiral was possible.
Naval service was dangerous with nearly 100,000 casualties between 1793 and 1815. Battle at sea accounted for less than 10% of naval casualties. Accidents and disease accounted for 80%. Scurvy, caused by lack of vitamin C, tropical fevers like malaria, typhus, typhoid fever dengue, and yellow fever, dysentery (the flux) took a heavy toll of sailors.
Naval wages, even for Captains were notoriously low. Prize money was the only way to wealth and came in various forms. If an enemy ship was sunk, 'Head and Gun' money (calculated by the numbers of men or guns on the enemy vessel) was awarded. Until1808, a 3/8 share went to the captain and the remainder was divided on a diminishing scale, according to rank, among the other officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and the ordinary members of the crew. After 1808, a slight change was made to the allocation of these shares.
If they captured an enemy ship, the Admiralty was often prepared to buy it from them and resulted in higher rewards. The best payouts came if the captured ship was carrying a valuable cargo. This kind of prize money was divided up so officers received more than the ordinary crewmen. It was possible for officers to earn substantial wealth in prize money.
In this tale, that is exactly what happens for Thomas Bennet, enabling him to retire to rank, connections and wealth. When he retires, though, things do not go exactly according to plan. Their long-awaited first season in London proves a disaster, and the resulting scandal sends the Bennets fleeing to the wilds of Derbyshire.
Widower Fitzwilliam Darcy, the master of Pemberley, wants for nothing, most especially not a wife. From the moment the Bennets arrive in Derbyshire, Darcy’s neatly ordered life turns upside down. His sons beg to keep company with their new playmates, the young Bennet twins. His mother-in-law sets her cap for Admiral Bennet. Worst of all, Darcy cannot get his mind off a certain bewitching Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but she has sworn never to let another gentleman near her heart.
Darcy’s best efforts to befriend and assist the Bennet family go horribly awry, alienating first Miss Elizabeth, then her father, and finally endangering what both men hold most dear. Can the two men Elizabeth loves most set aside their pride to prevent catastrophe for their families and win the love they seek?
from REMEMBER THE PAST:
Darcy and Fitzwilliam waited at the top of the steps.
“What do you know? He left the caravan of wagons at Alston Hall.” Fitzwilliam squinted and shaded his eyes with his hand. “What would possess a man to carry so much furniture along? Especially when none of it equals the appointments of Alston.”
“I daresay you shall not rest until you have pried the information out of some member of their household.” Darcy tugged his coat sleeves and straightened his cravat. “Do wait until morning before you begin interrogations. I prefer them to believe us civilized for at least one evening.”
“On my honor, I shall not torture their servants until morning.”
“That is good of you.”
The first carriage pulled up to the house.
The door opened before the driver could dismount. Admiral Bennet emerged, two young boys in his wake.
Darcy bowed. “Welcome to Pemberley.”
The admiral bowed from his shoulders, a stiff, awkward motion that spoke to many long hours confined in travel. “Thank you for your invitation, sir. I regret imposing upon you so early in our acquaintance.”
“Nonsense, you and your family are most esteemed company.”
Bennet glanced at his boys. “I fear these scamps may change your mind in short order. My sons, Francis and Philip.”
The boys bowed clumsily but in tandem. The two lads did more than merely favor each other. They were mirror images of one another. Oh, the trouble that could lead to! Thankfully, his own boys were not similarly endowed or Mrs. Reynolds would have surely retired by now.
Fitzwilliam hunkered down on one knee. “You look like fine young men, both of you. So which of you is the eldest?”
“Me.” Francis pointed his thumb at his chest.
“Only by five minutes.”
“Doesn’t matter, I am still the oldest.” Francis tossed his head but pulled up short when his father’s eyes turned stormy.
“Do enlighten me. How does one tell you apart?” Fitzwilliam asked.
“It took our governess ever so long to sort it out.” Francis clapped his hands over his mouth and chortled. “She still calls me Philip often enough.”
Philip made a small bow. “If you please, sir, I am right handed. Francis uses his left.”
“But Papa won’t make me switch owing to that it will make me a more formidabab … formida … a more better swordsman.” Francis grinned.
“So he is teaching you the sword already?” Fitzwilliam raised his eyebrows.
“Indeed, sir. We have wooden ones for practice now—”
“We brought them in our trunk … do you want to see?”
“Papa says when I turn eleven, he shall—”
George and David tumbled through the front door.
“See, there! The two identical boys I told you about!” George shouted and pulled his younger brother down the stairs. “David would not believe me that you were just alike. I was right!”
Darcy caught George’s shoulder. “May I present my sons, George and David.”
The four boys bowed to one another, nearly knocking their heads together. Laughing, they attempted to shake hands only to have the greeting end in a tangle of arms.
Both fathers reached in to sort the jumble of limbs.
“Papa,” George peeked up, “may we go to the barn and show them the colts?”
“My grooms are in the barns and will supervise them closely,” Darcy said.
The twins stood stone still, their hands tightly clasped before them. They all but quivered with the effort to maintain a posture of silent attention, or at least a boyish semblance of it.
Bennet stroked his chin. “A good run is just the thing they need. Now mind yourselves, gentlemen. You know how to conduct yourselves in company and around horses. Do not allow me to hear you have done otherwise.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” They saluted their father and ran off behind their new playmates.
Fitzwilliam stood and cocked his head at Bennet.
“No, I do not make them salute. My man, Piper, did so for many years at sea and cannot seem to shake the practice. They picked it up from him.”
A young woman appeared behind Bennet. “Papa?”
“Ah, yes, forgive me, girls. Gentlemen, may I present my daughters, Jane and Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam.”
“We appreciate your hospitality, sir.” Miss Elizabeth curtsied.
What an arresting creature. Not conventionally beautiful but stunning, nonetheless, with eyes full of curious intelligence, a musical voice, and a beguiling curve of her lips that held him too powerfully for escape. An unmistakable air of confidence and strength draped about her shoulders, unlike any other woman he had encountered.
Her brow knotted.
Botheration, he was staring! Where had his manners gone? He blinked and shook his head. “You are most welcome. Please come inside.”
Fitzwilliam ushered them in.
A flurry of feathers and taffeta breezed into the foyer. “Welcome to Pemberley.” Aunt Catherine beamed with her broadest good-hostess smile.
“May I present my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Aunt, these are our guests and newest neighbors, Admiral Bennet and his daughters, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
The admiral bowed over her proffered hand. “Thank you for your gracious invitation to my family.”
“We are delighted to have you as our guests.” Aunt Catherine possessed particular skill in making guests feel at ease and glowed with the opportunity to exercise it. “I have a light luncheon served in the parlor. Please—”
“I am sure they would prefer to refresh themselves after their travels,” Darcy said.
“Nonsense,” Bennet waved him down. “We would be most pleased to join her for refreshments.” He gestured to his daughters who mumbled amiable syllables.
Weary creases lined Bennet’s forehead and dust smudged his otherwise lovely daughters’ cheeks. Darcy swallowed a sigh. Sailor or not, Bennet’s manners were impeccable.
Aunt Catherine batted her eyes at Darcy. What joy, she would be insufferable now. “Come then, this way.”
They fell into step behind her.
Georgiana met them within the parlor, hovering over the fully laden sideboard.
“May I present my sister, Miss Darcy?”
The ladies curtsied. The men bowed and made introductions all around.
“A lovely spread and on such short notice, thank you.” Bennet gestured toward the sideboard and sat.
“Please help yourselves whilst I make tea.” Aunt Catherine took a seat beside him.
George burst in, the three younger boys hard on his heels. “Ha! I told you I was fastest!”
“That was not fair!” Francis—or was it Philip—grabbed at George’s coattail.
Darcy and Bennet sprang to their feet. “Boys!”
The youngsters stumbled and stopped before their fathers. They clasped their hands behind their backs, still panting, trickles of sweat and dirt trailing down the sides of their faces.
Two young women appeared at the doorway, strands of hair plastered to their cheeks, bonnets askance.
Darcy looked from them to Bennet. “Your governess, sir?”
“Yes, Miss Wexley.” Bennet cocked an eyebrow at his sons.
The boys lowered their faces and studied the floor. Clearly, they understood his expression well.
“Miss Mallory, take the children and Miss Wexley to the kitchen. I am sure Mrs. Reynolds can arrange refreshment for them. Then you may show them upstairs.”
“Papa, please, can they stay in the nursery with us? We have plenty of room.” George clapped softly.
“Please?” David edged closer to his new friends.
“May we, Papa?” Philip—or was it Francis—asked, wide-eyed.
Fitzwilliam slapped his thigh. “You’ll not keep them apart, I fear. Best make it official, lest they creep about the house in the middle of the night.”
Darcy grumbled. “They do not need you giving them new ideas.”
“That idea is hardly new. I seem to remember—”
“If Mr. Darcy approves, then you may.” Bennet rubbed his eyes. “Consider their request carefully, though. I daresay the amount of mischief …”
“We will be good, Papa. We promise, sir.” Francis—or perhaps Philip—stepped a little closer to his father. His expression shifted subtly, and he straightened his shoulders. “You have my word.”
That was definitely Philip. He had far more decorum than his brother.
Bennet’s severe mien broke, and he ruffled his son’s unruly curls.
“Can their appeal be accommodated, Miss Mallory?” Darcy asked.
To the weary woman’s credit she did not give voice to the sigh she surely would rather have uttered. “Yes sir, I believe so.”
“I suppose it is decided. Now, out with you. The next time I see you, I expect you to be cleaned up and behaving as proper young gentlemen.”
“Yes, Father,” George and David said.
“Yes, sir!” Francis and Philip saluted smartly and followed the governesses out.
“I shall have to add something to Miss Wexley’s pay this quarter. Lizzy, you must remind me—”
“You say that every quarter.” Miss Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled.
Did the admiral approve such levity?
Georgiana hid a tiny giggle in her hand.
He blinked, but no, nothing changed. Georgiana still smiled and her eyes twinkled. What had he just seen? She rarely showed even that much participation in a conversation with those outside the family. Remarkable.
Aunt Catherine’s brows rose. She noticed too. “How did you find Alston Hall?”
“Dusty.” Miss Bennet sniffled.
Georgiana and Miss Elizabeth shared a silent conversation and tittered softly. Quite remarkable.
“I fear the rooms have not been aired in some time.” Miss Elizabeth arranged her hands in her lap. “But the furnishings appear lovely.”
Aunt Catherine smoothed her skirts. “I hope you do not find the tired styling disappointing.”
“It will not signify.” Miss Bennet winked at her sister. “It is appointed far more comfortably than a number of our previous houses.”
“Have you lived many places?” Fitzwilliam stared, no, gawked at Miss Bennet.
She wore the same mantle as her younger sister though her beauty was of a more conventional form. Still, Darcy’s attention wandered toward Miss Elizabeth.
Admiral Bennet fixed on Fitzwilliam. “I always kept my family as close to me as possible. Both my dear wives set up housekeeping in whatever port was nearest.”
“They must have been extraordinary women.” Fitzwilliam balanced his chin on his fist.
“Indeed, they were.” Bennet touched the black ribbon encircling his sleeve.
The sort of silence that Darcy dreaded most filtered into the room—the awkward suffocating feeling when one was all too apt to say exactly the wrong thing.
“In what ports did you make your home?” Aunt Catherine asked.
“Naples, Gibraltar, Bombay and Jamaica. We visited several other places as well.” Miss Bennet’s voice trailed off.
“An astonishing list for young women like yourselves. What did you think of your adventures?” Fitzwilliam really must stop staring.
Miss Bennet turned to her father with eyes so full of warmth, the heat in Darcy’s cheeks rose. What kind of man inspired such devotion?
“I liked them very well. Sometimes though, having spent so much time abroad, I find the ton difficult to understand,” Miss Bennet said.
Aunt Catherine snapped her fan open and fluttered it. “If you like, I can make introductions for you in town during the Season. I assume you will be going to London then?”
“Your offer is most kind, Lady Catherine.” Bennet pulled himself up a little straighter. “You will, of course, understand when I assure you, my daughters are in no need of introductions. I served under Prince William for years and count him among my friends. He saw to their sponsorship himself when they were presented at court. Even so, we prefer to live away from the crush.”
Aunt Catherine gasped, and Fitzwilliam’s eyes widened.
Bennet’s cup clinked against its saucer. “If you do not mind—”
“Of course, your rooms are prepared so you may rest before dinner. My housekeeper will show you to your rooms.” Darcy rang for Mrs. Reynolds who appeared a moment later.
The Bennets followed her out.
“Prince William?” Fitzwilliam whistled through his teeth. “Our neighbors keep illustrious company.”
“What an excellent thing, indeed. There are surely no better companions for our dear Georgiana.” Aunt Catherine flicked her fan closed.
Georgiana blushed, and she huddled into her tightly clasped hands.
“When we next go to town, they might be able to put her in the way of some very worthy gentlemen.”
Darcy let his head drop back and counted ceiling roses. Aunt Catherine always managed to find a ray of sunshine in everything.
To celebrate the release of her latest book, Maria has offered up an ebook copy of Remember the Past to one lucky Austen in August reader! This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL and ends September 6th, 2014 at midnight. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification email, or a new winner will be chosen.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, sown six Regency era costumes, written seven Regency-era fiction projects, and designed eight websites. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.
She can be contacted at:
On Amazon.com: http://amazon.com/author/mariagrace
Random Bits of Fascination (http://RandomBitsofFascination.com)
Austen Variations (http://AustenVariations.com)
English Historical Fiction Authors (http://EnglshHistoryAuthors.blogspot.com)
White Soup Press (http://whitesouppress.com/)
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace
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