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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Guest Post & GIVEAWAY: Julie Cooper's Nameless

Pemberley meets Manderley in Namelessthe very recently released (as in, yesterday!) retelling by Julie Cooper, who joins us today to share and excerpt, the story of the book's inspiration, and her pet peeves with Armie Hammer's pants. Make sure to read to the end to find out how to enter to win a copy of the book! 
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A good romance, for me, usually begins by falling in love with an ideal. Nameless, my latest Pride and Prejudice variation, was birthed by a severe annoyance with its reverse.

I had looked forward to the Netflix production of Rebecca, an old favourite of mine, and was invited to watch it with my Millennial daughter and her best friend. 

Boy, were they sorry. 

Make no mistake: the production is a beautiful one, following Du Maurier’s novel much more closely than any other I’ve seen. And in the beginning, I was entranced by the brilliant cinematography. But then…little things began bugging me. 

First, there was the matter of Armie Hammer’s pants. Hammer, playing the role of Maxim de Winter, debuts in a mustard-coloured linen suit, the height of 1930’s chic. But in nearly every subsequent scene, he’s wearing the same mustard pants, paired with different shirts and sweaters. 

“Did excessive guilt cause an issue with his packing skills?”
“Was it PTPD (post-traumatic pants disorder) triggered by the murder of his wife?”
“This mustard-coloured linen significantly enhances my sinister rich-boy brooding sneer. I’ll take a dozen pairs.” 
“How many of the Monte Carlo hotel staff members do you think were assigned to ensuring that those pants would be clean, dry, and sand-free by morning?”

You can see what watching this movie with me must have been like.

But by far, the greatest share of my sarcasm was directed at the second Mrs de Winter. We all know the scoop, right? Maxim marries a young, inexperienced orphan several years his junior—played by Lily James—who, although lovely, is gauche, naïve, and timid. James played this role to an excruciatingly fine point. 

I simply could not stop with the W.W.E.D. (What Would Elizabeth Do?) comparisons.

To be fair, James played her character precisely as written (with the exception of a more Hollywood-ized ending than the novel.) The whole reason Du Maurier never named ‘aloud’ the second Mrs de Winter was that, though told from her first-person point of view, Rebecca was the star of that show. In comparison, her replacement was milquetoast, per Du Maurier’s pen.

Nevertheless, it was painful to watch. Every time the second Mrs de Winter allowed Danvers, Maxim, or even the butler, Frith, to bully, intimidate, or humiliate her, my eyes began rolling, my head would shake in disgust, and, naturally, I had plenty to say about it. I grew so carried away that at one point (the scene where Danvers tries to convince young Mrs de Winter to jump from the window to her death) I yelled, “Come on, Danvers, just push her!” at the screen.

“Rude,” my daughter remarked. But I knew she was rooting for Danvers, too.

The problem, of course, is that in between the last time I watched Rebecca when in my twenties and now, thirty years later, I adopted Elizabeth Bennet as my ideal heroine. Smart, sassy, and ultimately, self-aware, she would never have let Firth tell her when she was or was not allowed to light the library fireplace.

Thus, the urge came upon me to write Elizabeth into a similar situation, simply so that I could watch her shine.

The end result, of course, is Nameless. Truthfully, the story is not much like Rebecca, other than a resemblance between Mr Darcy’s first wife and Mr de Winter’s, especially in their moral code. But even that had to be dealt with carefully, for the hundred-plus years’ difference between the setting of Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca changed a lot of standards. Can you imagine Mrs Reynolds behaving like Danvers? Um, no.

In Nameless, circumstances and cruel fate attempt to shove Elizabeth into that same box with bullies, intimidation, and misunderstandings. She shoves back, Elizabeth Bennet style.

Also, and I may be skewered for so believing, Maxim de Winter is a weenie compared to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Thus, I had a lot more to work with in heroes than Du Maurier. Just saying.

An excerpt from near the beginning of Nameless, Mr Darcy’s proposal of marriage to a very astonished twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth:

I had been staring at him while these thoughts blundered and plundered through my mind, my mouth open in shock, when without warning, he leant in.

Is he going to kiss me? I barely had time to think the question before his lips were upon mine. I had been kissed before, as well—once by John Lucas in my fourteenth year, and thrice by the nefarious Mr MacAdam. This was not anything like those. His lips were firm, with nothing tentative about his intent, but neither did he loot and pillage, such as Mr MacAdam was wont to do. This was a man who knew what he wanted to discover, but did not mind searching for it.

He wanted me. It was in the seeking pressure, the restrained hunger, the intensity of purpose, the coaxing pleasure. Within it, I was taken by yet another surprise: I wanted him, as well. I wanted to wrap my arms around his neck, be held close, to return his seeking with my own. I wanted to know what he thought, and I wanted his thoughts to be of me. I was young again, pretty and proud and powerful.

He drew back; he had never touched me, except with his lips, and yet my whole being felt as if he had. I was speechless, although I managed one word: “Yes.”

All kidding aside, I actually love the book, Rebecca, and I appreciate the second Mrs de Winter for her carefully drawn, overwhelmed, demoralised self. Du Maurier never meant her to be Elizabeth Bennet. 

That pleasure was all mine.

To celebrate the release of Nameless, Julie has offered up a paperback copy to one lucky winner! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below. Full terms located in the Rafflecopter. Please do not leave sensitive info or email addresses in the comments. 
And make sure to leave Julie some love!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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  1. It sounds like your daughter and her friend were lucky to watch with you as I would have certainly appreciated comments such as: “Come on, Danvers, just push her!” It's been awhile since I've seen the original but I thought the new adaptation was just meh, your book certainly sounds a lot more interesting. Thanks for the excerpt, that was quite the proposal from Darcy and could only be answered by a resounding yes.

  2. Ha, loved reading how Julie came to writing the mash-up of these two books. There were a few scenes that got me tingly, but that one with just his kiss was one. Loved Nameless!

    1. I'm so happy you loved it! Thanks for letting us know!

  3. Look forward to reading Nameless. I love a good mash up. Rebecca is one of my favorite Gothic reads..the films never do them justice. I enjoyed the Armie Hammer version, now I must rewatch for his pants. LOL

    1. Hope I didn't spoil anything for you, lol. Hope you can enjoy!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Found your post interesting to read. I cant wait to see your post soon. Good Luck for the upcoming update.This article is really very interesting and effective.

  6. Ohhh gosh- I loved Rebecca in high school, but I wonder if I'd have the same concerns as you do (so many years and perspective later). Lizzie Bennet never suffers from being a shrinking violet, nor naive about life (to me, anyway, her journey is more about learning to be more skeptical/less judgmental), so I can't even imagine her in the same situation....which, of course, intrigues me about your book!

    1. Right? We get pickier about our heroines as we get older! And EB is the best!

  7. I am looking forward to reading this. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

  8. I'm with you re the latest version of Rebecca - I was most disappointed. However Nameless is a completely different kettle of fish! I've not finished reading it as yet - I'm savouring it slowly! But I'm completely drawn in by the Gothic atmosphere you have weaved around our beloved Pride and Prejudice characters. Congratulations on another wonderful novel!

    1. I'm so happy you're reading! Thank you so much!

  9. This is one of the things I loved about this premise. I can't imagine Elizabeth being cowed like the poor heroine of Rebecca. She ISN'T Nameless, and it'll be fascinating to see how her being different will affect the rest of the story.

  10. Interesting idea, I'm looking forward to reading it

  11. Lovely cover!! Thank you for the excerpt. Intrigued with Mr Darcy... such restraint. So I guess this was a better proposal than the original version;)

  12. I have not had the pleasure to read or watch the film Rebecca yet as I'm not a fan of Gothic novels. But I hope I enjoyed this mashup with P&P when I find the time to read Nameless. Thanks for sharing your thought process with us, Julie.

  13. Will need to add Rebecca to my to be read pile. I have never read it before.


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