From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Friday, dear readers. Fall is in the air and it is a great time to curl up with a cup of tea and a new book.
Please help me welcome Austenesque author Bronwen Chisholm to Austenprose today. She has a new Pride and Prejudice inspired novel that was just released this week. As a Proper Lady Would is the first book in the Defying Propriety Series.
Chisholm specializes in variations. Since 2014 he has has written seven novels and novellas, such as The Ball at Meryton (2015), Missing Jane (2020), and Georgiana Darcy, Matchmaker (2016).
Here is the book description and an exclusive excerpt from the author. Enjoy!
We are formed by experiences of our childhood. Family and friends influence our character. Decisions, wise and foolish, direct our path. Through chance encounters and early introductions, our beloved Pride and Prejudice characters come together on a slightly different path which may, to some, defy propriety.
In this first book of the Defying Propriety Series, we watch as Elizabeth and Darcy learn what society expects of them, while attempting to achieve what they truly desire in life. The well-known characters, as well as a few new ones, grow from childhood to a marriageable age; some reveal different facets of their personalities, while others are doomed to follow the same paths.
Reading Abbey, September 1798
Lizzy fairly bounced on the seat of the family carriage. Her father sat across from her with an amused gleam in his eye, while Jane sat as a proper lady beside her. Lizzy didn’t care. They were going to school and she was excited. There would be plenty of time to be proper later, now her thoughts were filled with all the wonderful things she would be learning.
John Lucas, their neighbour’s eldest son, told her all about his classes. He had to learn Latin as most of the professors taught in that language, but he also would learn Greek and French as he advanced. His writing had vastly improved and he was learning arithmetic as well. But her favourite of his tales was the books he had read. Many of them sat upon her father’s library shelves, but at school they would discuss the books. Lizzy could only imagine how it would feel to speak to someone about what she had read; someone other than Papa who humoured her, but rarely allotted the possibility her arguments held substance.
It was these stories which had inspired her to beg Papa to send her to school. When Jane turned seven, Papa had mentioned school, but Jane did not want to go alone. She asked him to wait until Lizzy was old enough to join her. When John returned from school a few weeks after her seventh birthday, Lizzy vigorously reminded her father of his promise to Jane until he finally relented.
The carriage slowed and Lizzy pressed an eye to the glass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the abbey. She was going to school in an abbey. When Papa had told her of it, she did not believe him. All she knew of abbeys was what she had read when the pictures in Papa’s book on the dissolution of the monasteries had drawn her attention. She wondered if the ghost of a long dead priest or nun might haunt the stones of Reading Abbey and a shiver ran the length of her spine as her grin grew.
Finally, they drew to a stop before a large stone building, gateway actually, that was not as cathedral-like as she had anticipated.
Papa placed his hand on the door, but did not open it. “I expect you both to behave as the proper young ladies you are while I speak to Madame La Tournelles.”
“Yes, Papa,” the sisters responded, though Lizzy’s was a bit more boisterous.
She saw her father’s lips twitch before he turned away and opened the door. The footman had just placed the steps and Papa stepped down, arched his back and rolled his shoulders before finally turning back to hand first Jane and then Lizzy out of the carriage. The door opened as they approached and a fashionable woman stepped out smiling broadly at Papa.
“Ah, our newest pupils,” she cried as she tapped each girl on the head. “I am Mrs. La Tournelles. Welcome to Reading Abbey,” she said with no accent whatsoever.
Lizzy’s grin grew as she looked up at her father, until she saw him frowning at the woman before him.
“You are not French?” he asked without even giving his name. The card he held forward as the woman approached was drawn back in a guarded manner.
A rosy hue covered the woman’s cheeks. “No, sir,” she responded hesitantly. “But our French mistress is.” She looked back to the girls. “You must be the Misses Bennet. There is one other young lady just your age who has been anxious to meet you.” She returned her gaze to Papa and smiled once more. “You have arrived in time for tea, sir.”
Papa nodded and they all followed the woman into the building. Once inside, Mrs. La Tournelles led them to her private parlour and a maid entered with the tea tray a moment after they were seated. Through the window, Elizabeth could see a ruin and gasped.
“Oh! Is that the abbey?” she asked as she ran to the window and peered out. “It is marvellous! Are we allowed to explore it?”
“Lizzy,” Papa said through clenched teeth. “Forgive my second daughter, Mrs. La Tournelles. She is eager to learn. I believe you will find her a most willing pupil.”
Lizzy turned back to see the woman eyeing her suspiciously.
“Yes, very eager.” The head mistress cleared her throat. “Of course, we must sit like proper young ladies while taking our tea.” Her eyes fell to the chair Lizzy had vacated.
“Yes, ma’am,” Lizzy replied in a subdued voice as she retook her seat and Jane laid a serviette upon her lap.
Chapter 4, pages 24-26
Bronwen Chisholm was raised in Central Pennsylvania, the youngest of four sisters. Though she was not introduced to Jane Austen’s work until later in life, she grew up reading the Bronte sisters, Gone With the Wind, and other classics as well as watching vintage Hollywood movies. Her love of books and literature almost led her to a career as a librarian. Instead, life and love carried her to Virginia where she took a position as a state employee and began raising her family.
As her children grew and became involved in their own interests, Bronwen returned to her love of the written word. No longer content to simply read it, she began writing. Though the first attempts ended up on a shelf for now, she would not be discouraged. Deciding to set aside her Women’s Fiction and Suspense Romance for a time, she finally became a published author with her Pride and Prejudice Alternatives. Bronwen was thrilled with the acceptance of her first offering, The Ball At Meryton: A Pride and Prejudice Alternative Novella. She takes great pleasure in searching for potential “plot twists” and finding the way back to a happy ending. Her current work is told entirely from Georgiana Darcy’s point of view and has been well received.
Her love of writing has led her to several writing groups, and she is currently serving as the Vice President of The Riverside Writers. Her love of writing has led her to several writing groups, and she is currently serving as the vice president of the Riverside Writers and organizes the Riverside Young Writers.
- As a Proper Lady Would: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Bronwen Chisholm
- Independently Published (29 September 2021)
- Trade paperback & eBook (237) pages
- ISBN: 979-8484404599
Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Bronwen Chisholm © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, Austenprose.com