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Dear friends, I’ve been excited about this guest post since I first learned of the title and laughed out loud. I couldn’t wait to see what the author had up her sleeve. Well, it’s time to find out, as Jayne Bamber is here today to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome!

 

Charles Bingley is a Hot Idiot

By Jayne Bamber, Author of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations

So, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Charles Bingley. I will say, he’s definitely a Nice Guy. I wouldn’t mind having him for a brother, though to own the truth, I would probably end up taking full advantage of his agreeable disposition – sound familiar?

I feel ya, bb. It’s hard being the smart one.

 

As a romantic prospect, I would Friendzone™ that f-boi faster than you could say Five Thousand A Year. Point me in the direction of Derbyshire, I prefer clever a-holes, thank you. Despite his being, as Jane Austen informs us, “just what a young man ought to be,” I have never warmed to him as a romantic hero. He is, in my opinion, a THIOT: That Hot Idiot Over There.

We know he’s attractive – Austen tells us that he is: “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” He is also, undeniably, not the sharpest key on the pianoforte. Jane Austen shows us this throughout the story, not only in his being easily led by his sister, but in his general weakness of mind, such as this conversation between Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth in Chapter 9:

“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he, turning towards her.

“Oh! yes–I understand you perfectly.”

“I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful.”

In the very next chapter, Mr. Darcy recalls this exchanges, and chides his friend for trying to portray his own intransigence in such a favorable light:

“When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself–and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

In the much-revered mini-series, Mr. Bingley is portrayed true to form: “sensible, good humored, lively” …not to mention “wonderfully handsome” (which a young man ought likewise be!) Though not to my tastes, Crispin Bonham-Carter is 90’s hot – in Regency England, we’d probably hit that. Being the longest film adaption by far, we get the greatest sense of his foolishness, as well. We also get a reminder that though Elizabeth thinks well of Mr. Bingley, he is far from her type, as she “could never love a man who was out of his wits.”

In one of my favorite moments, we even catch a glimpse of what Austen herself neglected to show us, though it was certainly implied – Bingley being coaxed by his sisters and Mr. Darcy to abandon the lady whom he loves, despite having created expectations in Meryton, and within Jane Bennet’s heart, of a forthcoming engagement, and despite actually feeling himself to be in love with her. Sure, Charlotte Lucas did try to warn us – Jane was not demonstrative enough of her feelings, but Bingley had no reason to doubt Jane’s affections until his sisters and Mr. Darcy worked him over. The man literally had more confidence in their opinions than his own intuition. Weak!

Intervention: Regency Edition

Even when Bingley does come back to Netherfield to propose to Jane at last, it’s strongly implied that this wasn’t his own decision, either – he’s been given permission by Mr. Darcy, after Lizzy gives him the business in Kent for separating them. This is a bit of fanon I particularly enjoy, when JAFF variations show us how that conversation goes down. While it’s always fun to see Bingley grow some backbone and clap back at Mr. Darcy for concealing Jane’s presence in London, or for generally being an officious blockhead, I can’t help but imagine that Charles Bingley is truly incapable of ever standing up to his friend for anything, even when it almost cost him his chance at true love.

In the 2005 adaptation, Bingley is brilliantly portrayed as a fresh-faced, energetic man-child, more of a buffoon than he was in the ’95 version, and yet somehow more endearing. He’s got some great Cute Moments, such as the swoon-worthy grasping at Jane’s ribbon as he follows her through the ballroom, or his rehearsing his proposal with Mr. Darcy out by the pond. He also has a lot of pretty idiotic moments, yet no one really seems to mind that he’s a complete doofus.

Aside from his comments about accomplished young ladies, none of these silly moments are from the original story, and yet they’re all so very Bingley. They all contribute to his particular brand of attractiveness – cute, well-meaning, and utterly artless. And yet, it’s a bit alarming, when you think about the reality of a young woman entrusting her fate and future to such a man. This man, who actually has to remind us that he can read, is going to run an entire estate, and make all the decisions for himself, his wife, and any children they have.

Honestly, I’d rather marry Caroline.

Lost in Austen is not especially high on my list of costume dramas (largely due to Amanda’s haircut – seriously, no one in the entire Regency period is going to help her not stick out like a sore thumb?) but provides some great Bingley moments that capture his Austen-given personality quite well, and his portrayal is closest to the Bingley in my own imagination, particularly when I wrote Happier in Her Friends than Relations.

Perhaps bordering on the farcical, the Bingley of Lost in Austen, though a total babe, is almost too flawed to be redeemed, from his mopey lurking at Jane’s wedding, to his mixing guns and alcohol at Pemberley, and finally his bizarre duel with Mr. Bennet after absconding with Lydia. Wildly off-book, but I would argue not entirely out of the realm of what a thoughtless man like Bingley might be capable of, if events were to take a turn for the worse.

In my debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, the story opens with the premise that Bingley does not follow through with his plan to rent Netherfield, as his sister Caroline has no wish to leave London, for Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been elevated to the status of Viscount, and Caroline is determined to catch him if she can.

If you follow me on Facebook you will know I’ve posted a fan-casting of all the characters in Happier, with Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter, Pitch Perfect) as Charles Bingley.

When Bingley appears in Happier in Her Friends than Relations, Elizabeth Bennet’s perception of him is not shaded through her sister Jane’s rosy perspective of “just what a gentleman ought to be.” Elizabeth sees another side of Bingley, and though she is charmed at first, her practical understanding of what she wants in a mate – stability, dependability, and good sense, a man she can both love and respect, Bingley inevitably falls short of the mark. Though his fortune must be a factor for her, the decision is not ultimately hers alone to make, because my Charles Bingley is just as easily led by his sister as Austen has depicted him, and Elizabeth is not so generous with her forgiveness as Austen portrayed Jane Bennet.

In the excerpt below, Elizabeth has been led to believe that Bingley intends to propose to her, and though she is uncertain of her own feelings after six weeks’ acquaintance in London, she soon discovers that her deliberation has all been for naught.

Mr. Bingley fidgeted nervously, barely able to meet her eye. She knew he had not come to propose. “What is the matter, sir? Are you well?”

His face crumpled into despair as he stepped closer to her, reaching for her hand. “I do not deserve your concern, Elizabeth. We both know I have kept you waiting these five days. I broke my promise, and yet you would ask after my health without any reproach. You are too kind.”

“Have you any explanation, sir?”

Mr. Bingley ran his hands through his hair in agitation, just as he had done that night on the balcony. It occurred to Elizabeth that though he was gregarious enough in good cheer, he was not adept at expressing himself in serious situations. No, when solemnity was required, he was not a man who could be depended upon. Feeling her heart sink to the pit of her stomach, she sat down on the sofa. With a pained expression, Mr. Bingley sat down beside her and scowled at the rug. “I daresay you have some idea what I wanted to say to you that night… What I have wanted to say to you nearly every moment I have spent in your presence.”

“Yes.” Fearing her inevitable disappointment, she wished this mortifying interview to be over as quickly as possible.

He let out a long sigh. “Would that I had spoken my heart that night, Miss Bennet, for now, I cannot. It would not feel right, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances, sir?”

Mr. Bingley brushed at his hair again. “I—we must leave London, for a time. We are for Bath, this very afternoon.”

“You are leaving?” Elizabeth drew back in confusion.

“I am afraid we must. I had to see you first. I wanted to come sooner, you must believe me, but I could not get away.”

“Could you not have sent word to my uncle?”

“Would that I had thought of it, or found the time. These past few days have been so very taxing.”

“I do not understand. What has happened?”

“Caroline has fallen ill, and I am afraid it is quite serious.”

“Good God,” Elizabeth cried, unable to hide her surprise. Miss Bingley had shown no sign of affliction at the Banfields’ dinner. Other than being afflicted with the worst sort of vanity and conceit. “It must have been very sudden. I cannot believe it—how shocking!”

“I was shocked, yes. We returned home that evening, after we had all danced together…. I told Caroline of my intentions…. She claimed she had a headache and took to her bed. I thought she was merely being peevish, but the next morning she rose quite early and sent for a doctor. Caroline is never ill. I was alarmed, and thought I ought not leave her, though I had meant to call here. I did not imagine I would be detained so many days, yet I have scarcely had a chance to get away. She seems to be getting worse every day, and I am worried for her. Louisa thinks that it is nothing, but I am afraid. Caroline is eager to leave London and said the doctor has recommended taking the waters in Bath. The Hursts will not indulge her, so it must be me. She wishes to travel there without delay.”

Realization dawned on Elizabeth and she sat in stunned silence for what felt like an eternity. It was just as she had feared. Miss Bingley had triumphed at the last in separating them, for Elizabeth had not the slightest doubt that the wretched woman’s illness was naught but a design to manipulate her naive brother. She saw in her mind precisely what a marriage to Mr. Bingley would be like, and felt that until that moment she had never known herself. No, she had foolishly hoped that he would, at the crucial moment, defy his sister in defense of the woman he loved. But it seemed he would not, or could not. He had taken the easier path, and succumbed to his sister’s demands, and Elizabeth knew in her heart that she could never bind herself to such a man.

Mr. Bingley looked over at her, and she could see the resignation in his eyes. On some level, perhaps unconsciously, he had already given her up. She scarcely knew what to say, for nothing could now breach the inevitable rift between them. The damage could not be undone. “And so you must go.”

“I have no desire to leave… London. But I must. I cannot say how long I shall be in Bath, but if you are in London when I return.…”

Elizabeth’s posture stiffened with defiance. That he should ask her to wait on him, on the whim of his deceitful sister! Her esteem for him had all but vanished, and she responded coldly, “I had not thought to stay much longer with my aunt and uncle. My sister in Kent has long been wishing me to visit.”

“Oh. Yes, I understand. Perhaps I shall send word to your uncle when I return to town. Perhaps.…” Mr. Bingley fell silent as Mrs. Gardiner’s footsteps could be heard in the hall. He stood and gave Mrs. Gardiner a slight nod as she entered the room. Looking back at Elizabeth with a faint smile he said, “It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is now impossible for me to enjoy.” With a quick bow he hastily left the room, and in another minute had departed the house.

Elizabeth glared out the window as his carriage disappeared. Yes, go, go. I would not wish you back again!

Mrs. Gardiner hurried toward her niece. “Dearest Lizzy, whatever has happened? Have you refused him?”

“I have not—Mr. Bingley did not propose to me.” Elizabeth filled her aunt in on all that had happened. When she finished, her aunt sank back against the sofa, crestfallen.

“Oh Lizzy, I am so sorry. It is all my fault, pressing you to like him, and setting you up for such disappointment. Your uncle and I thought it would be such a perfect match.” Here she embraced her niece tenderly. “Oh Lizzy, can you ever forgive me?”

Elizabeth thought it strange that she should be the one giving comfort at such a time, and offered her tearful aunt a wan smile. “I can hardly hold you accountable, or anyone else, save Mr. Bingley. And to own the truth, I believe you may be more disappointed than I. I suppose the blessing, once denied, begins to lose somewhat of its value in my estimation.”

Find out the rest of the story by purchasing your copy of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, available on Kindle January 5th!

Thanks for joining me on the second stop of my blog tour, and a special shout-out to those of you who have been following Happier since the days of posting on AHA and AO3! As a thank-you for all the wonderful support I’ve received, I have started a giveaway, and will be selecting a winner after each post on the blog tour! See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the sequel, coming soon!

Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today! Congratulations on your new book!

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