Hello all, wow it suddenly become summer here in Denmark! Well I will jump straight to my desk and the latest book I have read, namely “There you were” by Michelle Ray, a P&P variation.
“I was not looking for love, but there you were. I cannot stop it, I cannot indulge it, so I must put distance between us and hope that time will heal this fever I have.”
Abandoned by her mother and ignored by her father, it is hardly any wonder young Elizabeth Bennet’s curiosity soon brings about trouble and marriage to a man she does not love. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s family—save for his cousin Mr Darcy—despises her, and life is not what she dreamed of. As she matures and grows from an impetuous girl into a woman, Elizabeth’s most reliable source of friendship and comfort becomes Mr Darcy. When tragedy strikes leaving her a widow, she is free to find out [discover?] who has been in her heart all along.
Darcy has always been intrigued by the girl his beloved cousin married, and finds himself drawn into helping her after her husband’s death. Over time, admiration turns to love. Admitting his feelings to her – or even himself – could lead to ruin, but denying his passion could shatter him.
There You Were
Thanks for having me here at Interests of a Jane Austen Girl!
- How did you come up with the plot for There You Were?
There You Were started as a non-Pride and Prejudice story. I began writing it almost 20 years ago, and funny enough, its origin was the Brad Pitt movie Legends of the Fall! I was fascinated by the mother (hardly seen) who left the family to move back to the east coast, and I wondered what impact that would have on a girl growing up in a society that expects the presence of a mother and certain behaviors from young women. When the awesome Quills & Quartos publishing team suggested that I adapt my story to be a P&P variation, we had to drop characters and alter relationships, but a surprising amount remained the same. These include the main character’s feelings of isolation, her desperation at being without resources, a young man who becomes a savior in many ways and an unexpected friend, and the conflicts that come with that relationship.
- Mrs Bennet seems so distant towards Elizabeth, but not Jane. Why is that?
What strikes me in P&P is Mrs Bennet’s obsession with Jane’s beauty, and how she sees good looks as Jane’s ticket to a good marriage. In my story, I kept that point of view. I also exaggerated Elizabeth’s enthusiasm for the out-of-doors and her freer spirit. I added Mrs Bennet leaving when Elizabeth was still a baby—this would have diminished the mother-daughter connection, for blood does not guarantee closeness.
- In JAFF most readers expect Uncle Gardiner to be involved in the lives of Elizabeth and Jane, but I get the feeling you’ve turned that trope on its head. Can you expound on that?
I’m new to JAFF (and loving it!), so I do not necessarily know what rules I am breaking. Originally that character was a brother, but that would not do for land inheritance issues and plot points. Having Uncle Gardiner be distant and disinterested when they were young also served my vision of an isolated protagonist a bit better. Elizabeth and Jane are not raised with tutors and travel, or even much knowledge of the rules of society. When Jane is invited to London, the opportunity enriches her life, leaving Elizabeth without the skills and knowledge her dear sister gains. In P&P, I have always loved how the Gardiners are kind and loving, and how they ultimately enrich Elizabeth’s life. Though the way they do so is different in my version, I hoped that Uncle Gardiner’s wife would play the maternal and encouraging role, a bit of a counterpoint to Mrs Bennet, that she does in the original.
- Why didn’t the girls receive a “proper education?”
In P&P, it is made clear that there was no governess (much to Lady Catherine’s dismay) and that the Bennets employed no masters. When Lady Catherine says, “Without a governess, you must have been neglected,” Elizabeth replies, “Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary.” This gave me permission to follow my idea of girls who had been wholly neglected by their family in terms of their formal education. In my version, her father does not wish to spend the money or effort on his daughters, handing them off to Miss Taylor, a former school teacher and assuming that was sufficient. He despises assemblies and callers, thereby depriving his daughters of examples and experiences. I wanted Elizabeth to feel lost and out of sync with those of her class, and wondered how Darcy would react to this difference.
- What is the root of the animosity of the Fitzwilliam family towards the Bennets?
I imagined the Fitzwilliams as snobbish, looking down on their “poor” neighbors at Longbourn, hardly able to hold onto their lands. I did not envision any particular event that caused a rift. Had the Bennets not had personal problems that were widely known, perhaps the Fitzwilliams would have had less disdain for the family.
- We Janites always want the best for Elizabeth. If you don’t mind me saying, your Darcy is going to have to work hard to win her heart. What was your motivation behind his personality and behavior?
I adore Darcy and Elizabeth, and in P&P enjoyed the journey and the changes they made in themselves and how they viewed the other to come to a joyful conclusion. I see Darcy as a man who is deeply protective of those he loves. In There You Were, when he meets Elizabeth at 15, she is wild and loud, and comes from a family he sees as problematic for a variety of reasons. He would not want his favorite cousin, James (eventually promoted in rank so he becomes Colonel Fitzwilliam), entangled with the Bennets. As Elizabeth matures and changes, and he comes to know her for who she truly is, his opinion alters. The cold and critical Darcy that Elizabeth meets is far from the joyful, passionate partner she imagines desiring in her youth, but circumstances help him change and alters how she views him as well. When first we meet him in There You Were, he is in his early 20s. She notes how responsibilities weigh on him—he has a keen sense of duty and being orphaned thrust him into the role of running grand estates and caring for his young sister. Additionally, not everyone does well in social situations, and P&P makes it clear that assemblies and gatherings of strangers make him quite uncomfortable. All of that said, however, he does have to make some serious amends for the unkind things he says to her when first they meet.
- Can you give us a hint as to how Elizabeth and Darcy will find their way to one another?
Time together can change opinions, and tragedy often brings people together.
Thank you, Michelle for answering my questions about your new book.
The story started out as if it’s written in the future about the past events. Though the start of the plot had me shocked! No Mrs Bennet, a Mr Bennet who has given up any pretence of having a care for his family and a Mr Gardiner who is less than proactive in his dealings with the Bennet family, quite a turn around for the normal troupe. I was feeling so bereft for Jane and Elizabeth and how they are left on their own to raise each other to be the ladies we readers love and admire had me shaking my head in both frustration and sorrow.
To be brutally honest I had a devil of time finding any characters to like, but slowly it happened but it took a while but James Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth soon had me both smiling and cursing a few times. In the beginning I was close to giving up on this book, and cursing the author for ruining my favourite Austen book, but I kept at it and was rewarded with a different kind of written variation than even I have ever read before. A new character had me quite easily smiling, namely a Miss Taylor, a teacher/tutor/friend to Elizabeth, absolutely loved her.
But as the plot and drama unfolds I knew that Darcy would have quite a time winning the heart of Elizabeth, – and I was right. A lot of drama, a LOT of feelings – be prepared to be taken along on a rollercoaster of emotions, most negative in the beginning but by the ending those remarkable feelings of falling in love, silently, nearly unnoticed but finally admitted. The ending had me quite satisfied. I hope others will enjoy this book, and maybe like some of the characters more than I did.
Michelle Ray is a middle school literature teacher who also directs plays, writes stories, and sees as many Broadway shows as she can. She grew up in Los Angeles and went to the awesome Westlake School for Girls where theater had the cachet of football and the girls were in charge of everything. She lives with her husband and daughters near Washington DC, and dreams of traveling anywhere and everywhere.
There you have it, dear readers. I will be back in just two weeks with yet another review for “Mistress of Netherfield”, a book I am looking forward to reading. So check back, and remember to leave a comment.