Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thursday Treat!

It's Thursday again!  Wow, doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

I thought today I'd give you a snippet from Charlotte.  Book 1 in my Pride & Prejudice Continues series.  It's the book that kicked it all off for me, and so you can imagine that I'm very proud of it.  Also, in 2013 it was awarded a BRAGMedallion for excellence.  I was so excited when the president of IndieBRAG told me, as you can imagine.

Because the book is so precious to me, I thought I'd share the entire first chapter with you, my readers.

Have a wonderful day!

Karen xxx

I ask only a comfortable home.  How many times had Charlotte’s words to her friend Lizzy come back to haunt her recently, reverberating round her head, tormenting her?  What price was she paying for her comfort? 
She shuddered as she looked around her sitting room, which Lady Catherine, their patroness, had decorated and fitted out and was not to her own taste at all.  The wallpaper, although expensive and elegant, was heavy and oppressive.  She sat and thought about the changes that she would have liked to make to the room.  After a while, she began to feel more at ease again.
Her sanguine attitude, of which she so confidently assured Lizzy, her oldest friend, had left her long ago.  She often felt dread at the thought of intimacy with Mr Collins and avoided it as much as she could do.  The act often repulsed her, but she knew she had to steel herself for this very night because, as he left the breakfast room that morning, he had given her one of his strange flirtatious waves, a sure indicator that he felt amorous. 
Charlotte knew little of the state of marriage when she had married Mr Collins.  Her mother’s advice to her was to bear it as well as she could do, but this meant nothing to her until her wedding night.  She remembered thinking at the time that if someone only warned young girls of the marriage beds, then they would not marry in the first place.  Perhaps then, it was better that they usually knew nothing and were innocent of such things, or there would be no more marriages and certainly no more children.  Her stomach knotted at the thought of her own experiences.  The thought of their fumbled encounters in bed made her feel uncomfortable, and she hurriedly turned to her new book 'Langue des fleurs'.  She stroked the cover page, and more of her own words came back to haunt her: I am not romantic, Lizzy.  And yet here she was, holding and enjoying reading a book on such a romantic subject.  Charlotte was beginning to realise that she did not know herself at all. 
* * *
Mr Collins had interrupted Charlotte’s walk through the woods that morning by rushing to her to declare the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings Park, their patroness’s home.  Why this caused her husband to be in such a flutter, she did not fully understand.  He was waving his hat and bidding her make haste.  She sighed and asked herself if the inhabitants and guests of Rosings Park were to be always her highest priority.  She did not return to the parsonage with the called-upon haste, but instead took her time picking some late wild flowers to study in her book. 
Upon her arrival, she found the house and servants in pandemonium, for all his shouting and flapping, Mr Collins had not produced the haste, which he so desired, but had made all about him unable to discern whether they were coming or going.
She rolled her eyes. “My dear, calm yourself, and explain to me what has happened.”
“My dear Charlotte, I cannot emphasise enough how valuable the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh is to us and the sovereign importance of performing the duty owed to her.  She has written to us and requires us to be present at dinner tonight!  We must prepare ourselves!” He bellowed breathlessly, staring about him as if his wife and their servants all should have understood this perfectly. 
The clock bell chimed in the sitting room, and Charlotte patiently counted each chime taking the time to calm her nerves and temper before she spoke.  “There, as we have heard, Mr Collins, it is only eleven o’clock in the morning.  There is indeed no need of haste and we are in no danger of being late at all.  We may proceed with tranquillity.” 
This, however, would not suit her husband, who flapped his way into the sitting room to examine the clock - because it must have been faulty.  He remained standing there for some minutes, examining in turn the clock and his pocket watch, which both, Charlotte was sure, declared the same time. 
She left him to his activity and retired to her room to rest.  She sat at the table and looked out of the window.  She knew when she met him that he was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been little assisted by education or society.  When she tried to rescue her friend Lizzy from him by inviting him to Lucas Lodge, she knew he had come to Longbourn on a wife hunt and knew him to be awkward and foolish and, subsequently, his feelings for her to be entirely of his own imagining.  He declared such passionate feelings for her as she knew he could not possibly truly feel on such a short acquaintance, but here an opportunity had presented itself.  Charlotte had long felt herself to be getting past her bloom.  She smiled at the thought.  She had never had a bloom.  And she was plain-looking, especially next to her dear friends, the Bennet sisters, although she had the blessings of good sense and intelligence.  She had heartily feared that she would never have a proposal of marriage and that she would end her days a spinster and a burden to her family.  Yet there he had been, standing in front of her, professing an ardent love for her, and in so doing, also unwittingly declaring he was a silly man indeed. 
She had not needed long to deliberate on whether to accept his hand or not.  At twenty-seven years old, and close to being declared a spinster, the decision was easy for her to make.  She had always thought that happiness in marriage was entirely a matter of chance.  That to be ignorant of the defects of one’s future spouse was best.  Mr Collins’ had been her only proposal of marriage, and she was sensible of it and doubted whether she would ever receive another.  With that in mind, and knowing that Mr Collins was an excellent match for her, and feeling a sense of duty and obligation to her family, she accepted.  She consoled herself with thoughts of bringing happiness to her family.  It pleased her to become mistress of her own house, and the thought of having children to occupy her time gave her pleasure.  That is exactly what she did now, regardless of her heavy heart.
* * *
Mr William Collins sat down in his study and looked out of the window too.  He liked that room, his study and book room, as it afforded the best possible view of the road in case Lady Catherine's carriage pass by.  He was acutely sensible of his considerable fortune in his patroness the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Her beneficence and his known connection to her had been invaluable to him.  He felt it keenly.  He could not have hoped for a more propitious living and a better patroness.  He hardly could understand why his wife did not feel it as keenly as he did.  Perhaps she does not have the capacity to feel as deeply as I do, he mused. 
He thought back over the events leading to his marriage to his Dear Charlotte and blushed at the memory of the unfeeling and impolite way in which his cousin Elizabeth had refused the offer of his hand; he could not have borne to stay in that house any longer.  To his vast relief, his dear Charlotte had come along, invited him to Lucas Lodge, and saved him from further humiliation.  Although he had promised never to reproach Elizabeth on the subject again, he could not but feel saddened that none of the Bennet girls would continue at Longbourn and take their mother’s place as mistress of the house upon their father’s demise, when subsequently he took possession of his inheritance.  However, he did congratulate himself on having been saved from an unfortunate match, as he must now view the hoped-for alliance between himself and his cousin Elizabeth since the infamous elopement and subsequent marriage of her youngest sister, Lydia, to the notorious cad and blackguard Mr George Wickham.  Mr Collins was heartily relieved that he had escaped the misfortune of having to call such a man brother-in-law. 
Turning his attention to the pile of letters on his writing desk, his eyes fell once again upon the wedding invitation from Longbourn.  A double wedding.  As exciting and fair a prospect it was for all those concerned in Hertfordshire, he could not but feel deeply the pain and disgrace that Lady Catherine now felt upon the announcement of her nephew’s marriage.  To be married to a woman whose position in society was so far beneath their own upset Her Ladyship so much, she could not even bring herself to utter Elizabeth’s name without shaking and starting to weep. 
“Yes,” he nodded to himself, “as Lady Catherine says, Pemberley is to be thus polluted.” 

He had, of course, driven to Longbourn and sought an audience with both Mr Bennet and Elizabeth,
being sensible of the high standing, which he believed he had in that family, but neither of them seemed to take his kindly meant advice with any seriousness and, in fact, seemed to deem his visit with levity.  He could not understand it. Surely, they would not wish to be the cause of injuring such illustrious families as the de Bourghs, the Fitzwilliams, and the Darcys?  Yet the wedding was to take place, the evidence of which was on his desk before him.  He felt honour-bound, as Mr Bennet’s heir, to attend, but equally duty-bound to Lady Catherine to refuse.  He contemplated his predicament for some time and then, taking his Bible in his hands, drew out his hassock from under the desk, turned, and knelt down, leaning his elbows on his chair to pray.

(Copyright © 2013 Karen Aminadra)

CHARLOTTE is available through all major stockists.
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