Hey-ho Janeites. I am happy to welcome bestselling Austenesque author Victoria Kincaid to Austenprose today to share her fifteenth Pride and Prejudice variation, Rebellion at Longbourn.
Variations have become the driving force in Jane Austen fiction for several years now. The creativity of the authors who imagine new stories for major and minor characters is unfathomable. Kincaid spins an interesting new plot for Austen’s iconic romantic couple, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Just imagine that Mr. Collins has inherited Longbourn after the death of Elizabeth’s father and that the Bennet women are now dependent on the charity of their cousin who has gone off the rails and becomes an irrational spendthrift. That has interesting possibilities.
Victoria and her publisher have generously offered a preview of Rebellion at Longbourn for your enjoyment.A Pride and Prejudice Variation
Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.
Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?
Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied. Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception. Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?
“Tell me everything. I must know everything.” Darcy set his jaw and stared at the fireplace, fearing he would break into pieces if he moved.
Timson rubbed the back of his neck. “Very well.” He sank again into the opposite chair. “Although there isn’t much else to tell.”
“What happened to Miss Lydia?”
Timson grimaced. “I do not know. The neighbors said she lived with an aunt and uncle in London for a while but then upped sticks. Perhaps the family knows her whereabouts and isn’t saying, but she had not visited Longbourn.”
Darcy nodded. Most families would not even acknowledge the existence of a daughter who had exhibited such infamous behavior.
“And Wickham?” he asked, fearing the answer.
Timson squirmed uneasily in his chair. “He was cashiered from the militia, of course. Apparently, he had a prodigious quantity of debts. There were stories all over Meryton about gambling, debts to shopkeepers, and merchants’ daughters being meddled with.”
Darcy nodded heavily. Yet another evil to be laid at his doorstep. He had thought it beneath him to gossip, but that had permitted the blackguard to cheat honest men of their money and debauch innocent women. “Where is he now?”
“Nobody in Meryton knew,” Timson said. “And Mr. Wright didn’t know if you wanted that information.”
“I do. Make it a top priority.” Timson nodded. “I can give you a list of the man’s associates.”
The other man’s eyebrows rose at this, but he did not comment.
“And find Lydia Bennet. I must know where she is and if she is well.”
Timson nodded again and made some notes on his papers.
“What happened to the rest of the family?” Darcy feared the answer. His conjectures were horrible enough.
At least when Wickham had pursued Georgiana, Darcy’s fortune—and a bit of luck—allowed him to conceal the scandal. Without any fortune to speak of and at the mercy of their obsequious cousin, the Bennet family must have suffered greatly.
“They buried the father, and the cousin took possession of the estate like I said. But people were still talking about the scandal in Hertfordshire. My cousin said many of the better families ceased associating with the Bennets. A young man who had been courting Miss Katherine gave her up.”
Darcy closed his eyes. All this can be laid at my feet. Through my inaction, the Bennets have become pariahs in their own town. “None of the daughters is even engaged to be wed?”
“There was a rumor that the pork butcher made an offer for Miss Bennet, but she refused him.”
Darcy shuddered. “The butcher! I should say so.” Miss Bennet was a lovely and gracious woman—who might be married to Bingley if Darcy had not interfered.
Timson shrugged. “There’s not many in Hertfordshire as would associate with the family. They’re right lucky their cousin is keeping them on.”
Darcy flushed with anger, refusing to look at the other man until it had passed. This mess was not Timson’s fault; he was repeating what others had said in Hertfordshire. “Surely the scandal will be forgotten eventually,” Darcy said finally. The Bennet sisters’ marital prospects could not have been irreparably damaged. But, of course, their portions were small; their prospects had never been exceptional.
“Perhaps,” Timson said dubiously.
And then there was the matter of Longbourn’s new master. Collins was a loathsome toad. Imagining that sanctimonious windbag as the new master of Longbourn made Darcy’s skin crawl. “How does the new owner behave toward the Bennet daughters?” he asked.
“My cousin said the people in town don’t see the Bennet sisters much anymore, just at church and sometimes at the grocers or the odd assembly.”
The Bennet daughters had been at the center of society in Meryton, a lively presence at every dance or dinner party and welcome acquaintances of all the better families. They should have ended mourning for their father more than six months ago. Were they so completely shunned that they had forsaken society? Or perhaps Collins forbade them to venture out and instead read them sermons all day.
He must have been silent for a long time. Finally, Timson leaned toward Darcy. “I could revisit Hertfordshire and perhaps visit Longbourn. My cousin is acquainted with Mrs. Bennet; she might find a way to visit the house.”
It was a tempting thought. Darcy burned to know what was happening at Longbourn. But he already knew it would be a fruitless endeavor. Any report from Timson would ultimately be inadequate to Darcy’s needs; he had too many questions.
“I thank you, no. I see no need for you to return to Hertfordshire. I would like you to remain here and focus your efforts on locating Miss Lydia Bennet and Wickham.”
And I must travel to Longbourn myself.
Chapter 3, pages 24-25
The author of more than fifteen best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.
On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice.
Rebellion at Longbourn: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Victoria Kincaid
Meadowbrook Press (June 1, 2020)
eBook (172) pages
Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Meadowbrook Press © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com