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Monday, August 23, 2021

The Ladies of Norland excerpt & GIVEAWAY from Alexa Adams!

If you're very lucky, you can get your hands on some of Alexa Adams' books in this year's AIA Mega Prize Packs. And maybe that luck will extend to today, because Alexa is sharing an excerpt of her latest novella, The Ladies of Norland, along with a chance to win a copy of your own!
Click through to read it and enter to win!

The old gentleman died. His will was read and, like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. The bulk of the estate, as expected, was disposed upon Mr. Henry Dashwood, and with lifetime proprietary rights guaranteed to Mrs. Dashwood and handsome bequeathments secured upon his three nieces. He meant not to be unkind, however, and, as a mark of his affection for young Harry, left him a pony and three thousand pounds.

Mr. John Dashwood’s disappointment was at first severe, but his temper was cheerful and sanguine, and he might reasonably hope that neither of his parents should live for many more years, carriage accidents being common and influenza on the rise. In the meantime, it was decided that the pony had better be left at Norland, where it could cause no additional strain to his own purse (the three thousand pounds were not found similarly burdensome), and where Harry might frequently visit to try the charms of his lisp upon his grandparents and aunts. Yet before even two such sojourns could be achieved, Fortune proved a less fickle benefactor than man, and Mr. Henry Dashwood followed his predecessor to the grave only a twelfth month later.

Mr. John Dashwood was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather coldhearted and selfish is to be ill-disposed, but he was, in general, well-respected, for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made still more respectable than he was. He might even have been made amiable himself, for he was very young when he married and very fond of his wife, but Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself, yet more narrow-minded and selfish. Though she, too, was severely disappointed, her hopes of a speedy ascendance to the title of Mistress of Norland rather dashed, she was, nevertheless, quite quick to see the possible advantages in their current circumstances, and well-versed in how to make the most of status and position as she was, had no hesitation in inquiring what her husband intended to do for his poor suffering mother and sisters. Four women, she argued, living alone in isolation must have need of masculine guidance.

“How is a bereaved widow to raise three girls while overseeing both house and estate? It is too gross an imposition.”

“You forget Sanders has been Norland’s overseer these ten years or more, ever since he succeeded his father to the post. He can be relied upon between our annual visits.”

“Perhaps we ought to spend more time at Norland in the future. Even the oldest retainers have been known to tamper with accounts when left unsupervised for too long.”

“I have no reason to suspect Sanders’ honor, but I dare say he should have an easier time managing the workers with my regular, commanding presence to uphold his authority.”

“I should certainly think so. Only think what a help it would be to your mother to know the estate is in good order. She could focus her attention on finding suitable husbands for your sisters, which will be an arduous task, I assure you. Such charming and accomplished girls deserve a London season, where they will require firm guardianship. Dear Mrs. Dashwood is far too lenient.”

“You ought to introduce them to society yourself, Fanny.”

“My thought precisely, John. I should enjoy the task, and your poor mother could remain at Norland with Margaret, as I am certain she should greatly prefer, but such notions are a bit unseemly in the moment. Fortunately, their mourning period will be complete in time for me to bring them out next year, but for now, especially as our own activities must be curtailed, I think we might best support the grieving family by removing to Sussex.”

He frowned. “You do not think the ladies would prefer their own company at such a time? My sister Marianne is certain to be in the darkest of humors, and her dramatics can be quite unnerving. When last I saw her, she barely uttered two words.”

The lady honored her husband’s sensibilities, but she could not indulge them. “A little discomfort to ourselves is a small price to pay when our support is so needed. You can see to the books and grounds, and I can take over the housekeeping duties for dear Mrs. Dashwood.”

“I do think little Harry provides a cheering presence. One cannot but smile at his antics,” the fond father mused.

“To be sure, he will be the greatest balm to their blighted spirits, and you know how much he enjoys our stays at Norland. When might we depart?”

"Are we not too hasty? I do not wish to be perceived as encroaching," he replied. "One had rather, on such occasions, do too little than too much. They can hardly be expecting company."

"There is no knowing what they may expect," said the lady, "but we are not to think of their expectations. The question is: what do they require?"

"Certainly. Four ladies left to wallow alone in their sorrow cannot thrive. The mundane but necessary details of daily life will fall into neglect."

“That you must not allow. Any diminishment of the estate takes from your own pocket, John, and Harry’s as well. You have not just a right and interest in the house and family, but a duty to both. I know you would not wish to appear negligent.”

"That is very true, my dear. Indeed, that would not do at all, and so it is decided. I shall write to my mother of our intentions at once, but do rest easy regarding Sanders, my dear. He is a good man. There is no reason for concern over his ability to manage the estate for a few years. Harry’s patrimony will remain undiminished.”

His wife hesitated a little in accepting this reassurance. "I do not mean to disparage the abilities of Mr. Sanders. However, one would hope the estate would improve, not merely avoid neglect, over the time of Mrs. Dashwood’s residence. Should she live fifteen years, many an opportunity to increase the property’s value may be squandered."

"Fifteen years! My dear Fanny, her life cannot be worth half that purchase."

"If you will observe, people always live forever when they hold property required by others and of little use to themselves. She is very stout, healthy, and hardly forty."

Mr. John Dashwood looked alarmed. “Do you truly think so? I had not thought it possible. Certainly, over the course of so many years, it is not just matters of maintenance that press upon the attentive landowner. As you say, I have a duty to myself, my child, and my heritage to ensure the future prosperity of Norland Park. It is a matter of honor.”

“Very well stated, my dear. I could not agree more.”

So it was that within a fortnight of his father’s funeral, Mr. John Dashwood, his family, and their attendants were installed at Norland, and with no determined time for their departure. Though John’s letter, full of proper civility and respectable sentiments, prepared the ladies of Norland for their reception, the notice was short enough that a refusal could not be conveyed in time to prevent the encroachment. Thus was their quiet period of mourning brought to an abrupt closure, disrupted by social dictates, hostessing duties, and a determinedly rambunctious four-year-old, possessed of no consideration for his relations’ distress and perfectly capable of invading even the most secure sanctuaries sought in desperation by his aggrieved aunts, upon whom he was extremely fond of imposing himself. 

A Sense and Sensibility reimagination. What if the elder Mr. Dashwood was more generous to his nephew, niece, and their daughters than Austen rendered him? Had they not been forced from Norland Park, would Elinor and Marianne still have achieved their happy endings? The Ladies of Norland is the sixth book in the Twisted Austen series, written in honor of Halloween. Join Austenesque writer Alexa Adams as she explores Austen's timeless tales through an unconventional lens.

 Two lucky Austen in August readers will win an ebook copy of The Ladies of Norland, part of the Twisted Austen series of stand-alone retellings by Alexa Adams!
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  1. I loved this one. Just as I've loved all of her novellas that I've had the chance to read.

  2. Poor Dashwood sisters, first they are dealing with mourning a loved one and now they must deal with Fanny. I look forward to reading more and finding out what changes transpire due to their change of circumstances.

  3. This looks like such a good period written book-thanks

  4. This is an interesting idea, I wonder what difference it would have made if they'd stayed put. Elinor would still have met Edward, I am sure, but what of Marianne?

  5. Very interesting and informative interview.

  6. Sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing.


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