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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Rational Creatures: Mary. | Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Over the summer, I featured a post from Christina Boyd, editor of the Jane Austen-based anthology, Rational Creatures (for Austen in August, of course). Today, I'm hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Jenetta James (a name you've seen around here before), as well as giving you a chance to win a major prize pack with many, many prizes being offered up on the blog tour! So make sure to click through to hear Jenetta's thoughts on one of my favorite notoriously disliked (but personally, loved!) characters, read an excerpt, and enter to win!
Enjoy and good luck!

Mary Crawford deserves more praise than she gets.

Quick witted, fast talking, harp playing, the antagonist of Mansfield Park cuts a swathe through the
narrative. She is a disrupter, throwing the status quo into flux. Mary is an urban figure in a rural
story, a wealthy woman in a tale of poor relations. She is irreverent, and plainly so, in the face of
the hero and heroine’s godliness. An orphan, she is cut adrift by family circumstance, slightly
without a place. And so, she floats about, belonging no-where. Like many ladies in Jane Austen’s
novels, she seeks a husband. But she does not do so blindly.

So what’s not to love? Well, some may say that she lacks moral probity, that she is all surface and
no substance. When rules are broken, Mary regrets the exposure of wrongdoing rather than
malady itself.
I get that, but I love her still.
She has so much spark and promises stories out of keeping with her age. My story is a tiny
vignette of romance, a hint at a wider narrative and it I hope it tempts the reader, even the sceptical
one, to embrace Miss Mary Crawford.



Mary sat beside her brother in the carriage as it rolled through the streets. This was the pitch dark of the early morning, the moment before the dawn. He had appeared, as Henry was wont to do, the day previously. With no notice and in a noisy hail of good wishes. Mary was happy to see him, the admiral thrilled. He was in Town for two nights only, a short ration, before departing for a house party in Wiltshire. The siblings had left Gussie Faraday’s house in gales of laughter, and now Mary leaned back, pushing her body into the thin leather seat, stretching out her legs, her arms. Henry, who never showed fatigue in public, yawned. Then, he turned to her with his brow creased.

“Oh Mary. I should not have played that last hand.”

“How much did you lose?”

“It is probably best that I do not say. Better for you not to know, dear.”

He leaned over and kissed her hairline, his breath sour with Madeira but his smile like that of a puppy on a long walk.

“Just don’t tell old Nelson.”

“I shall not tell him, if you stop calling him that. It does not suit him. Too heroic.”

“Now, now.” He took her hand and squeezed it. “Do not dwell on that. Life, darling sister, is all about seizing opportunities where they lie. And making them where they do not.”

“Says the gentleman who has just lost his allowance at the faro table.”

“Yes, well. One cannot expect to be always in the pink.” He grinned, winningly. If all else was lost, Henry would always have that: a way with people, a spark of merriment, a sense of levity. And one day, all else may well be lost.

“I noticed that you had a lot of attention, sister dear. Old Peter Armitage and that cousin of Maxwell’s. Remind me of his name?”

“William. He looks better than he talks.”

Henry stretched his legs out, too. He let out a quiet bubble of laughter.


“Sadly not. I believe he may be interested in mine. And I cannot consent to be a man’s banker.”

“You might, Mary. If you were getting value in return. A title, an estate. And if you want to get away from Ne— our uncle, then that is the surest way, is it not? Marry one of these young bloods that linger about you.”

Mary sighed. These young men were rather like dogs, padding about, hoping for preferment. They were entertaining in their way, but they had their limits.

“The problem, which you yourself know full well, is finding the right person. Many are agreeable in company, possessed of standing, handsome, even. Some are wealthy, some are clever. But uniting with another for life is no small business. I am anxious not to throw myself away on the wrong bet. For I should never escape.”

She eyed him; she could have said more but held back.

“Do you suggest that I should do so? I do not deny, Mary, that I have had my share of romances. But

I have never had a wife to desert or neglect. I hope that I never shall. You mean, I suppose, to suggest that wives have the poorer bargain.”

“Of course they have the poorer bargain! In their lives, wives cannot make free as husbands do. If a husband is displeased with his wife, well, there are solutions, possibilities…. For a wife, she can find neither escape nor compensation.”

He flung his head back. “Indeed. You want too much. You cannot see into the future, dear. Seize the day; seize your own advantages. Otherwise, what is the point in all of these evenings gadding about, all this fashion?”

He gestured to her evening gown, blush pink and terribly becoming, if she said so herself.

“Interminable hours playing the harp, singing.”

Mary turned her hands over and regarded her fingers, quite sore from the strings. She had played long that evening but, in truth, she loved it. The soft melodious hum, the comfortable shape of the frame against her body. Singing she could well manage without. Being asked to entertain with her own voice always gave her alarm. It seemed excessively giving, leaving her throat dry and her chest constrained. There was always the fear of missing the note, going flat, and looking a fool.

“Verity is a lovely singer. I miss her voice, Henry.”

“Oh, Mary. Not again.”

“Are you sure you have heard nothing? Did Gussie say anything to you? How can she just be gone, like a puff of smoke?”

“I do not know, darling. But please stop asking me about it. If I knew, I would tell you. It has nothing to do with me. Now stop talking about the wretched business. It is too solemn for a night such as this one.”

Mary looked out of the window, a marble of enquiry rolling about her mind. The sky had begun to lighten, the night crack up, disintegrate.

“Actually, it is morning. And, we are home.”

They juddered to a halt in Hill Street and abandoned the carriage for the house. Her uncle’s hat was not on the hall table. For a moment, Mary felt troubled. She squinted and wondered.

“Thank you, Hoskins,” she said as the butler took her cloak, somewhat sleepily. “Has our uncle returned?”

“Not yet, miss.”


Rational Creature SUPER Giveaway: The Random Name Picker will review all blog comments and select one winner from these blog stop comments during the tour for all 21 prizes: Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks), our bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle; #20, a brick in winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House; and #21, the Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook.
The giveaway ends November 15, 2018 and is open to international winners.
Make sure to leave a comment to be entered to win!!

about the book:
Rational Creatures, edited by Christina Boyd
450 pages
Published October 15th 2018 by The Quill Ink
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser

about the author: 
JENETTA JAMES is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in
Cambridge and read history at Oxford where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford
History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full time as a barrister.
Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad, as well as her native England.
Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading,
laughing, and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, The Elizabeth
Papers, and Lover’s Knot.

Visit more of the RATIONAL CREATURES blog tour stops for more chances to win!
Rational Creatures Tour Schedule
September 18 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post
September 22 / Just Jane 1813/ Guest Post
September 25 / Books & Wine are Lovely Playlist 
September 27 / Fangs, Wands and Fairydust / Guest Post
October 2 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Guest Post
October 4 / From Pemberley to Milton / Guest Post
October 9 / Austenesque Reviews / Guest Post
October 11 / Silver Petticoat / Guest Post
October 15 / Just Jane 1813 / Book Review
October 16 / My Love for Jane Austen / Guest Post
October 18 / Rosie’s Review Team / Book Review 
October 23 / More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post
October 25 / The Book Rat / Guest Post
October 30 / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review
November 1 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Guest Post
November 6 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review
November 8  / Of Pens and Pages / Book Review
November 13 / Let Us Talk of Many Things / Guest Post


  1. I have never been a fan of Mary but I am a fan of Jenetta so I look forward to seeing what she does with this character.

  2. THIS. “...some may say that she lacks moral probity, that she is all surface and
    no substance. When rules are broken, Mary regrets the exposure of wrongdoing rather than
    malady itself.
    I get that, but I love her still.”

    Exactly so. And I believe Jenetta James’ Mary Crawford story is exceptional look into her life before Mansfield Park. We have the opportunity to see a bit of her life in London, in her uncle’s home, how she shifts for herself. This one is not to be missed. IMO.

    Thank you, Misty, for hosting #RationalCreatures and featuring Jenetta James and Miss Crawford.

  3. I remember reading an analysis of Mary Crawford's character that pointed out her exterior personality is very Elizabeth Bennet-ish. She's attractive, intelligent, and witty--exactly what we'd expect in a book's heroine rather than one of the antagonists. As you point out, she's also selfish and shallow, which makes all the difference. Love Jenetta's presentation demonstrating that the acorn doesn't fall far from her family tree!

  4. I love Mary, she is delightfully fun to read and I would love to have her for a friend. Jenetta's story is one of my favorites in the anthology (which quite surprised me as I never thought myself a Mary Crawford fan). I also really liked her male counterpart. I think he's my favorite male character in the anthology.

  5. Oh I must admit that I do not care for Mary C. So I’m hoping to change my mind after reading her story. There must be more to her than she portraits.

    1. I was also not a Mary Crawford fan...until I read this story! I loved Jenetta James's Mary Crawford. We get to see a little of what is behind Mary's brilliant but sharp facade.

  6. I think Mary is quite in tune with the whole group of MP's characters. None come off without flaws in some way or another. The difference is in that extra shine and wit she possesses. I love what Jenetta did with Mary and enjoyed the prequel adventure in London.

    So, glad you could host our Rational Creatures, Misty. :)

  7. In Jenetta's story we observe Mary in her natural habitat, in London. And we meet an intriguing man, too.

  8. Through the stories in Christina’s latest anthology, I have a better understanding of—and appreciation for—some female characters that I didn’t particularly care about before, like Mary Crawford. In ‘What Strange Creatures’, Jenetta fleshes out Mary’s character; and, although the short story is perfect as is, I wish it had been a full-length novel. It’s that good!
    Thanks, Misty, for spotlighting this talented writer. Good luck to your readers in the giveaway.

  9. So excited to read this story! I find Mary Crawford an intriguing character with so much potential for stories about her to be explored. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Jenetta's writing is always fantastic and this prequel tale to Mansfield Park is no exception. I can't say that she's turned me into a Mary Crawford fan - I still have far too many reservations about her later behaviour - but this story gives us an explanation for why she is the Rational Creature that she is. Like Joanne, I'd love to see it expanded into a full-length novel, as I would many, if not all, of the other stories!

  11. Oh how exciting to see a different Mary Crawford! She is one of my least favorites, but that might change :)

    1. I think Jenetta James is rather talented to be able to make this anti-heroine likeable while keeping her nature very much how Austen created it.

  12. I bought this book the day it came out and it is WONDERFUL so far!!!!

  13. I also love Mary Crawford and I think Jenetta James has nailed it!!

  14. Hmm.. Mary Crawford. Really!? LOL. I'm definitely intrigued and ready to give her a chance.

  15. I think Mary is a cunning character.

    1. She’s so fun to read! And I think Austen gave her all the best lines:

      “I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly: I do not like to have people throw themselves away; but everybody should marry as soon as they can do it to advantage.” (Ch. 4)

      “Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” (Ch. 7)

      “Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.” (Ch. 7)

      “Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” (Ch. 9)

      “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” (Ch. 22)

      “Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves.” (Ch. 23)

      “There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me. I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.” (Ch. 25)

      “Varnish and gilding hide many stains.” (Ch. 45)

  16. Witty Mary, in the hands of Jenetta James. You don't want to miss it, readers!

  17. I look forward to reading Mary Crawford's story, Jenetta. She could have ended up becoming the heroine of Mansfield Park if not for the lack of integrity and virtues. I am more sympathetic towards her for she is surrounded with people of dubious morals who don't set a good example to follow.

  18. We have a winner for our #RationalCreatures blog tour giveaway!
    Congratulations, Schilds.
    Thank you to all who participated. (Please claim before November 20 or we will have to draw for another winner...and that would be disappointing for all...except the new winner.) https://www.thequillink.com/blog/rationalcreatures-epic-blog-tour-ends-announces-grandprize-winner


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