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Posts Tagged ‘outmatched’

It’s my pleasure to welcome Jayne Bamber back to the blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of her latest Austen mashup, Outmatched. All of Jayne’s variations so far have been exciting and unique, and Outmatched appears to be no exception. I hope you all are as intrigued as I am by the excerpt. Please give Jayne a warm welcome!

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Something strange is going on at Mansfield Park, and the Bertrams mean to bring their mischief to the doorstep of their Dashwood relations at Norland. But what does this mean for Fanny Price?

Hello, dear Janeites! It is a pleasure to be back at Diary of an Eccentric to tell you all about my upcoming release, Outmatched, coming to Kindle on May 8th. This is my fifth novel, and by now many readers may now my penchant for intrigue, surprises, and alternate couplings. This book promises all that and more in a fusion of Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility that turns everything we knows about some of Austen’s most beloved characters upside down.

I will have more to say about the Dashwoods in future posts throughout my blog tour, but today the spotlight in on the Bertrams. Their story opens just after Sir Thomas returns from Antigua, and just as in canon Sir Thomas takes notice of the changes to Fanny Price since he went away. However, Sir Thomas is harboring a dreadful secret that could alter the futures of all his family – and Fanny Price in particular.

The excerpt I would like to share with you today is the first glimpse of Jane Austen’s most underrated heroine, with some hints of what is to come. Though her future may seem uncertain now, one thing is quite sure – this visit to Norland will change the course of her future forever….

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Fanny Price ended her day in a greater degree of distress than she had ever experienced, since her earliest days of coming to Mansfield as a child. After the initial shock of being transplanted from the home of her youth, she had by and by begun to feel her position secure enough; she expected never to leave. Hearing that her uncle meant to bring her to Norland, among cousins who had never taken notice of herself, her parents, or her siblings – cousins who were by all accounts very grand – it was not the sort of news to put her at ease. Having been acquainted with the news amidst company had been difficult, even to one as accustomed as she to concealing her feelings.

The matter of putting her forward – whatever that might mean – had been touched on again at dinner, for by then it was quite resolved that they would all go to Norland very soon. Her panic increased, for among all the conversation and planning, she had lacked the courage to inquire what she most wished to know – was she to return with them when the family came back to Mansfield? Or did this journey portend some new and uncertain future for her?

After the family dined, the animated chatter in the drawing room afforded her some opportunity to slip away to the East Room. The space had formerly been used as a school room, but since the governess had left them, the room was considered by all to belong to Fanny. Here were her plants and books and little objects of comfort; Mrs. Norris would not allow Fanny a fire of her own, but it was cozy enough on most occasions merely for the peace it afforded Fanny.

Tonight, there was none to be found, and all the pleasure of her many hours whiled away in the East Room felt like a comfort that might very soon slip into her distant memory. Her uncle had been heavy with his praise of her since returning to England. This alone had surprised Fanny, and the notice made her uncomfortable. She could neither conclude on her own, nor muster the temerity to inquire, what Sir Thomas might intend for her now, but there was a rising fear in her heart that he meant to be rid of her.

It was true that John Dashwood was her cousin by blood, for his father had been brother to her mother and aunts. Yet he was twice her age, and had taken little notice of her when last they met. She had been a girl of twelve or thirteen, and still so daunted by everything at Mansfield, and everybody so high above her. What could he, his wife, and mother-and-law possibly want with her, much less do for her? What strange notions had Sir Thomas in mind? Surely he could not think that whatever improvement he had perceived in her appearance – a frightening sensation on its own – might raise her prospects enough to bring her into the notice of virtual strangers.

She paced the room for a half an hour or more, her thoughts increasingly wretched, and every moment she wished Edmund would come. He was always so mindful of her absence from the family circle, and was often coming after her here, when something or other caused her to withdraw to her favorite place.

And yet, Edmund had been acting strangely all day. He had spoken harshly to his father on more than one occasion, both in the drawing room and over the course of their family dinner. He was all barbs and brooding, and it was very unlike him to be so long out of humor.

Beset by another cause for alarm, Fanny began to agonize over what had caused Edmund such distress, and why he had not sought her out to share his troubles, as he had always done before. It occurred to her that his problem and hers might be one and the same – whatever her uncle’s intention for Fanny might be, perhaps Edmund could not like it, and could not speak to her of the matter.

Amidst such heavy woes, Fanny was late in hearing the door open and the soft footfalls on the floor; she looked up in some surprise to find Julia lingering in the center of the room. “Oh!”

“I thought I might find you here,” Julia said. She went and sat in the window seat and peered out at the twilight before beckoning Fanny to join her.

Fanny’s habit of obliging her cousins was too strong to be broken, even under such duress. She sat at the other end of the window seat, and Julia moved closer. “Well, Fanny, what do you think of this Norland business? I cannot like it at all.”

Fanny could not remember the last time Julia had asked for her opinion on anything of greater importance than a bit of ribbon or the state of the weather. Her hands fidgeting in her dress, she merely replied, “It was most unexpected.”

“Exactly so! I cannot think why Papa should wish to travel at all – and so far! He has only just come home. He might have let the theatrical go forward, if he wanted some amusement.” Julia folded her arms and huffed, leaning back against the window casement in a childlike pout.

As a poor and dependent relation, Fanny could not bring herself to question her uncle’s decision; indeed, this was the very substance of her own quandary. But no more could she confide such a thing to the cousin who had not her trust, who had really never endeavored to speak so candidly with her before. No, Fanny could speak freely to none but Edmund. “I wonder what he thinks of it – Edmund, I mean.”

“Why, you heard him – he is all in favor of it! I cannot think why that should be, either. He is never cross with Papa, and I am sure he cares as little for Cousin John as the rest of us. You must remember his Fanny – Mrs. Dashwood, I mean. Vulgar and rude is how I recall her! Mrs. Rushworth said he turned his own sisters out of the house when Uncle Henry died. Well! If our Dashwood cousins are at Norland, I shall take every chance of slighting Fanny Dashwood for them.”

Fanny knew not what response to make, though she, too, felt some sympathy for the Dashwood girls. She recalled playing with the two eldest once when they were very young – they had been kinder to her than Maria and Julia, and that they had been so ill-used made Fanny feel a sense of kinship with them. Of course, far it be for her to slight the mistress of Norland, when she knew she would be expected to show some gratitude at being brought there at all. She glanced at the door, willing Edmund to walk through it, but to no avail.

Julia needed little encouragement to go on. “I am sure you do not wish to be going there, either, Fanny. And why should you? Why should any of us! Oh, Mamma may wish to see the home of her youth, but she will not like it once we are all in our carriages, and I daresay we shall all be very uncomfortable then.”

Though Julia meant the discomfort of traveling, Fanny felt sure that the entire ordeal would be very uncomfortable for her, but all the more so once they had reached their destination. She had heard little of Norland from her mother and aunts beyond the fact that it was very large and very grand. Her own mother had been raised there, too, though she had fallen so low in the world that Fanny wondered if her mother would ever be welcome back there – it was rather to be wondered at that any Price should be admitted to such a house.

“We shall have to be allies, you and I,” Julia said, and took Fanny’s hand. “You are too good and sweet to say so, but I know you wish to go as little as I. My, but your face when Papa addressed you! I cannot think why he would make you so uncomfortable, for no one but Maria really wishes to be going at all. He ought not force anyone who does not like it, and I am sure we would be much happier to stay here. But I see you are too afraid to agree with me. No matter, it shall be our little secret.”

Even this discomfited Fanny. She could not like to have secrets of such a nature, to be an ungrateful malcontent. Surely Edmund would talk her out of such feelings. Fanny let slip a little sigh of woe, and Julia embraced her with one arm. “Do not fret, my little friend. We are of one mind, and we shall keep together, you and I. I am sure it will be vastly unpleasant – we must find some pleasant room just like this to hide away at Norland, for we shall be better company for one another than anybody else. If Papa means to put you forward, I am sure he is thinking of one of Fanny Dashwood’s brothers – can you imagine how odious they must be?”

“Surely not!” Fanny raised a hand to her mouth, sorry to have spoken with a vehemence that surprised and shamed her.

“I am certain of it. I can well imagine a pair of gentlemen with her same beady-eyed look, gauche and over-trimmed, and full of self-importance. We shall have to look after one another.”

Fanny’s alarm intensified. Of course Sir Thomas would think to marry her off, for all his talk of her improved looks and womanly virtues. She had been a fool to think they would keep her at Mansfield forever.

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Thanks for tuning in to this stop on my blog tour – there will be a chance to win a free ebook and another excerpt at every stop along the way!

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Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your upcoming release!

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