From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
I am so happy to welcome author Laura Hile back to Austenprose today. Laura is the writer of several Jane Austen-inspired novels and short stories, notably the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy featuring none other than the peevish Miss Elizabeth Elliot from Persuasion, and her humorous fantasy, Darcy by Any Other Name.
Laura has two new books releasing in quickstep: So This Is Love, and A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3. Today we are featuring So This Is Love, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired variation involving Charlotte Lucas whose re-imagined story many readers will find much more rewarding than what was originally devised by Jane Austen.
Laura has generously offered a guest blog and exclusive excerpt. Enjoy! Please return on August 10th for our review of A Very Austen Romance.
“I am not romantic, you know. I never was.”
Newly escaped from a loathsome engagement of convenience, Charlotte Lucas has no interest in romance. More than ever, she is convinced that no man would—or could—love her. As a companion to an aging aunt, Charlotte’s new life is as predictable as it is circumspect.
But then she is rescued from a robbery by her uncle’s heir, a masterful man who is disastrously handsome. Why has he remained as a guest in the house? Why is he so determined to draw Charlotte out and make her talk? And what of his invitation to visit his home by the sea?
Romance is not on the chart for Captain Jack Blunt. Never again will he be played for that kind of fool! He is ashore only to heal from an injury and see to business, nothing more. And yet the pointed disinterest of his cousin’s pert niece is intriguing. She is forthright, refreshingly honest—and altogether lovely. She will make a fine wife for one of his officers. But not, of course, for him.
So This Is Love is a joyride of a Regency, bringing whirlwind romance and happily-ever-after to Jane Austen’s staid and practical Charlotte Lucas.
If you love the classic movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) as much as I do, you’ll see the similarities in my new Charlotte Lucas romance, So This Is Love.
Except that in my story, the hero isn’t a ghost; he’s a living man. That’s what we wanted for Lucy Muir in the movie: a true and lasting love with a fascinating man of the sea … who is real.
Ghost is brilliant because it brings together two people who are entirely different: a crusty sea-dog bachelor and a picked-upon, oh-so-proper Edwardian widow. If you haven’t seen the movie, Captain Daniel Gregg has been dead for several years, and he haunts his house by the sea. When Lucy and her young daughter lease it, Lucy and the Captain are thrown together on a daily basis.
From Captain Gregg, Lucy gains the respect that no one else is willing to give. And Captain Gregg now has the family — and the wife — that he longed for in life, but was never able to find. We watch them fall in love and are captivated. Yet we know that they can never share a future together because he is a ghost.
With an eye on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, I began to build So This Is Love.
In Lucy’s place, I have Jane Austen’s Charlotte Lucas, a young woman who has been pitied by generations of women readers. Like Lucy, Charlotte is hampered by a lack of fortune, and she also seems, well … hopelessly ordinary. As to courtship, Charlotte’s prospects are nil. For example, in So This Is Love, she tells Elizabeth Bennet that the best she can hope for is to marry a widower, in order to care for his children.
But there are no widowers in Meryton. There is only Mr. Collins.
We watch Charlotte make an impossible choice, simply because it is prudent. “No, no!” we want to shout. “The man’s a spineless braggart! Don’t marry him!”
With two little words, I sent Charlotte’s story spinning from its Pride and Prejudice rails: what if?
What if, when Collins returns to Meryton to negotiate the settlement, his lustful thoughts overpower good sense? What if, before they are married, Collins gets handsy — and something within Charlotte snaps? What if she abruptly ends the engagement?
That’s what we would do in real life, right? We’d kick Collins to the curb!
What if, to escape gossip, Charlotte is sent to live with her father’s sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Allen of Wiltshire (of Northanger Abbey fame). Mr. Allen’s heir is also a house guest … and thus we have a perfect opportunity for romance.
Although I intended to use Captain Gregg as a model, Captain Jack Blunt wasn’t having any. For one thing, he is Royal Navy (circa 1812), not merchant marine. And for another, although he has a gentleman’s beard like Gregg, he is blond.
If you’re thinking Chris Hemsworth in Thor, you’re getting the right idea.
Look, if our girl Charlotte is brave enough to give Collins the heave-ho, she deserves to meet a swoony hero, right?
Not for one minute do we believe that her “I am not romantic” statement is true!
Captain Blunt’s house by the sea in Dorset plays the role of Captain Gregg’s Gull Cottage. Cliff House, and the cove it’s built above, almost become characters themselves as Charlotte and Jack share daily walks beside the sea. This book is filled with delicious banter between these two. Isn’t that our favorite thing about romance?
I think you’ll enjoy So This Is Love.
From Chapter 17, we see Captain Blunt in action, as Charlotte attempts to school him in proper etiquette. Will he comply? Not on your life!
In the dining room, Commander Ord was working with a slate and a stack of place cards. Captain Blunt circled the table with narrowed eyes; he snatched up a card with distaste. “I shan’t sit beside Mrs. Allen, Ord. Put her there, on the windward side of her husband.” Charlotte then saw Jack take her own card and set it beside his place.
“You cannot do that,” she protested. “Mr. and Mrs. Allen have precedence over the others, and most certainly over me. Mrs. Allen ought to sit to your right. On your left should be Mrs. Goodding.”
“The vicar’s wife may stay, but I do not intend to ruin my digestion by having to listen to Mrs. Allen’s idiotic prattle.”
Charlotte stood her ground. “This is proper social usage, Captain Blunt. We are not aboard one of your ships, where you have the freedom to seat your guests any which way. There are niceties to be observed.”
“By whom? This is my house, and in my house I do as I please.”
“Do not blame me when you offend Mr. and Mrs. Allen.”
“Geoffrey won’t care, and there is no pleasing Mrs. Allen. Everything I do offends her.”
When his eyes held that icy look, there was no reasoning with Jack Blunt.
“Jasper,” she told him later, “I cannot sit beside you tonight. Not again. People will begin saying things.”
A frown descended. “What kind of things? Blast it all, do you mean about you and me? Don’t sell me a dog! I am old enough to be your father.”
“I beg your pardon? Only if you were fathering children when you were Johnny’s age!”
He laughed at her.
“Jack Blunt, you are the most aggravating man!”
“Why, thank you.”
“You are as stubborn as my grandfather!”
His eyes now held a twinkle. “I daresay I am worse. Where ought you to sit, Diana? According to the exacting rules of social precedence?”
She waved her hand. “At the other end of the table, among your lesser officers.”
“With men you do not know and with whom you have little in common? That makes for heavy going when it comes to conversation.”
“As if I am not skilled enough or well-mannered enough to make my way! I’ll have you know that I am able to converse with anyone. And I often do.”
“Egad,” he said, smiling.
Charlotte was not finished. “Often at dinners I am seated apart from my well-born friends. My father might be a newly-made knight, but hostesses do not take that into account when it comes to me. If there is a dull or boring guest, he is sure to be my dinner partner.”
“And you, naturally, make no objection.”
“Why should I? I am the guest, subject to the will of my hostess.”
“Thank you for making my point. You are my guest, and in this you are subject to my will.”
Charlotte ground her teeth. How she longed to stamp her foot at him!
He folded his arms across his chest. “If I must nail your name card to the dining table, so be it.”
“Oh very well. Have it your way. But do not be surprised when people begin linking our names and making horrid insinuations.”
The twinkle was back. “Horrid, eh? You are making my points for me today.”
“I did not mean to insult you, and you know it.”
“I do know it,” he said more gently, with a smile that tore at Charlotte’s heart. “Won’t you rescue me from Mrs. Allen? Please? You, of all people, know what she is like.”
Charlotte’s resolution was in tatters. “You once told me that you are known to be ruthless, Jack Blunt. I can now see why.”
He spread his hands. “Has it taken you all this time to figure that out? And here I thought you were uncommonly perceptive.”
“You, sir, do not fight fairly.”
“I warned you not to underestimate me.”
- “The combo of the swashbuckling Jack and the unflappable Charlotte is a pure delight. — Debbie Brown, Goodreads reviewer
- “A delightful twist on Charlotte’s story full of hope, heartache, adventure, faith, and love.” — Lorel Kline, Goodreads reviewer
- “If you have read Pride and Prejudice, and felt that Charlotte got a raw deal, this story is for you!” — Maureen Chritzman, Goodreads reviewer
Encourager. Believer. Author. Teacher. Friend.
By day, Laura Hile teaches at a Christian school. By night—or rather, in the early morning when she can think! —she writes Jane Austen and Regency romance with laughs and happy endings.
The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with middle school students! She enjoys gardening (she is a weed warrior!), choral singing, and having coffee with friends.
Laura lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. One day she hopes to add a cat or three.
Other books by Laura Hile: Darcy By Any Other Name and the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. She is a regular contributor to the A Very Austen anthology series.
- So This Is Love: An Austen-Inspired Regency, by Laura Hile
- Independently published (May 29, 2020)
- Trade paperback & eBook (325) pages
- ISBN: 979-8648709782
- Genre: Austenesque, Regency Romance
Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description & excerpt compliments of Laura Hile © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, austenprose.com.