Pride and Prejudice variations are the most popular Austenesque books in print. There are thousands of them now. I kid you not. While the genre can credit Abigail Reynolds as a pioneer in the Darcy and Elizabeth redux, there are always new authors with new stories breaking into the throng to add to the mix.
Jayne Bamber is one of those new additions to the pack. She is certainly prolific. She published four Pride and Prejudice variations last year. One assumes that she had them squirreled away and brought them out in a flurry of industry. Her latest, Strong Objects to the Lady, is part variation and continuation. You will find familiar settings at Rosings Park and Hunsford Parsonage in Kent and beloved characters created by Jane Austen sent off in new directions. Here are a book description and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.
A tale of…Intrigue & Inheritance… Meddling & Manipulation… Sisterhood & Self-Improvement…
When Lady Catherine de Bourgh learns of Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, her wrath sets in motion a series of events at Hunsford Parsonage which embroil Darcy and Elizabeth in a family fracas that grows more complicated daily.
The shades of Rosings Park are soon polluted by the shocking transformation of its new mistress and her guests, as well as secrets of the past and schemes for the future.
Appearances and alliances shift amidst the chaos wrought by a well-intentioned house party, and Darcy and Elizabeth must finally face their feelings for one another despite mounting obstacles and misunderstandings of every kind.
Set chiefly in Kent and spanning the short space of just a month, this stand-alone variation begins the morning after Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. From there, chaos quickly erupts and the lives of three strong young women tangle together in a day-by-day journey of growth, sisterhood, and ultimately romance, in the wake of tragedy.
Despite her admonishments when last they met, Mr. Bingley was very warm to Jane; he began to reminisce on their time together in Hertfordshire as if it had been a mere fortnight ago. “How merry we all were in the country before! And yet, there were a great many more things that I had hoped to do while we were there, you know.”
“It is a pity, then, that you did not remain in the area long enough to accomplish them,” Jane said primly as she sipped at a spoonful of soup.
“Indeed! I am glad we agree,” Mr. Bingley said. “But what a fine thing that spring has come – we must all be out of doors a great deal! You are fond of the outdoors, are you not, Miss Elizabeth?”
Jane glanced over at her sister, who had been exchanging some strange looks with Mr. Darcy across the table. Elizabeth flicked her eyes back to Mr. Bingley with a hesitant smile. “I fear I have gotten no farther than the library since coming here; the rains have kept me indoors.”
“Well, at such a fine house, that can hardly be cause to repine! And what do you ladies think of the castle?” Mr. Bingley peered eagerly between Jane and Elizabeth.
“It is very grand,” Jane said simply.
“I think I like it,” Elizabeth said, “though it puzzles me exceedingly. It is a fine house, though strange. One’s impression of the place must vary widely based upon how one approaches it, and a great deal about it makes little sense to me, but I should quite like to explore, to figure it out. Of course, it can be dangerous, and I would not want anyone to get hurt.”
This had been addressed as much to Mr. Darcy as to Mr. Bingley, and Jane took her sister’s full meaning. While Mr. Darcy gave Elizabeth a look of adoration, Mr. Bingley took Elizabeth’s words at face value.
“It is an odd-looking place, but I am vastly happy with it,” said he. “I hear you have done some exploring of the old structure already, and I am eager to do the same. The old castle sounds romantic, do you not think, Miss Bennet?”
“Miss Elizabeth is right that some caution must be necessary,” Mr. Darcy observed. “We did briefly explore the great hall, in the oldest part of the structure, and though I thought it magnificent, there was some little danger. Perhaps in the light of day, a clearer examination would be in order, so that we might understand what needs to be mended.”
Elizabeth began to cough, and then stilled herself to sip at her wine; Mr. Bingley only laughed. “All business, eh, Darcy?”
Jane doubted that very much, thought she obstinately wished to agree, if only to spite Mr. Bingley’s obtuse good cheer. “Indeed, sir, or nearly so.”
“Oh yes, I have heard about the estate lessons,” Mr. Bingley cried, leaning in toward her. “Miss de Bourgh seems a most formidable pupil, and I hear that she is in good company, Miss Bennet.”
“It is true,” Mr. Darcy said. “Miss Bennet and Anne have both shown a great eagerness to learn, and a remarkable aptitude. I hope that we might continue.”
Jane smiled shyly at Mr. Darcy, glad for her own sake that he was being so kind, and aware that Elizabeth must see his efforts as well. “I have thought of little else since coming into Kent,” Jane said carefully. “That is, I hope to devote the greater share of my attention to learning what I can, so that I might do well with Longbourn someday. Mr. Darcy and his cousin have been excellent teachers, and I am sure Anne would say the same.”
“And now you are to take on another pupil,” Mr. Bingley told his friend with a guffaw. “You may begin to mistake me for one of the ladies!”
Jane was filled with dread to think of it, but of course Mr. Bingley should be involved, for Darcy had often been assisting him at Netherfield, too. She smiled blandly at him, biting back a caustic retort that even her sister would have blanched at.
Elizabeth laughed at Mr. Bingley. “You have observed, on an occasion I particularly recall, that all young ladies are accomplished. To be mistaken for one must surely be a fine thing indeed for you.” Her bright-eyed smile was full of defiance.
“What a dreadful thing it is,” Mr. Bingley laughed, “to have one’s words remembered with such accuracy! You have applied them very cleverly, Miss Elizabeth. But of course you should outwit me; it is another accomplishment.”
Jane might have once been smitten with his easy banter, and yet now it seemed to fall flat. “You seek to retain the upper hand with flattery, Mr. Bingley,” Jane said with a weak smile.
“Oh yes,” Mr. Bingley replied, his eyes settling on her in a way that had once made her heart flutter. “I hope I have some chance of succeeding.”
Jane flinched. She was not often obliged to refrain from rudeness, but remaining civil had never been such a challenge. “I cannot say – we are all very clever ladies here.”
Mr. Bingley was in no way dissuaded from recommending himself to her, and actually looked pleased. “I am sure I have some of the finest ladies in the county at my table this evening – perhaps that is an accomplishment of sorts!”
Every charm of Mr. Bingley’s had given way to some deficiency; he was in no way altered himself, but Jane’s perception of him was now so vastly different. She looked away from him, clasping her sister’s hand under the table and wishing the meal would come to a speedy conclusion. Chapter 20, pages 214-215
Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This, of course, has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.
Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is, in fact, growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.
After years of dating Wickhams, Collinses, and the occasional Tilney-that-got-away, Jayne married her very own Darcy (tinged with just the right amount of Mr. Palmer) and the two live together in Texas with a pair of badly behaved rat terriers, and a desire to expand their menagerie of fur babies.
Strong Objections to the Lady: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jayne Bamber
Independently published (December 21, 2019)
Trade paperback & eBook (364) pages
Cover image, book description, and excerpt courtesy of Jayne Bamber © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com