Jane Austen’s love stories have withstood an incredible test of time. They are widely read and loved two hundred years after they were written. We know that Jane Austen never married. Where did her expertise in love come from? There is some evidence that she developed a deep mutual attachment to a man she met during a seaside family holiday. But almost no details are known of this man. Only that her sister was later to say that he was a man who was truly worthy of Jane.
This is the story of that pivotal encounter. It is written in Jane’s own voice, as closely as it could be captured. Not the gentle wit of her novels, but the sharp, blunt tongue that she used so freely in her candid letters to her sister.
At the same time, we will watch how her writer's voice evolved; how she drew from the people and events in her life to create the masterpieces of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
Carolyn has an excerpt of a rude encounter here for us, and she's very kindly giving away an ebook of 'Jane at the Sea' to two commenters here. Read on for more details.
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I hoped the roar of the waves would impede conversation, but Lieutenant Barnes and Cassie were determined to be social. Apparently, the Barnes brothers were staying nearby at their aunt’s summer home. She owned an estate in Somerset as well. The lieutenant’s broken arm had kept him away from duty for some four weeks now, and he predicted another month until he reached a full recovery.
“Not that long, surely,” I argued. “Perhaps if you were to take that cast off, you will find that you are already mended.”
“That is a tempting hypothesis. What says my doctor to such an experiment?” he responded, with a sidelong wink at his brother.
“Your doctor says no. Now, while I will allow you to have a superior mind, your bones are of tediously average strength, and will heal at their leisure,” Dr. Barnes asserted.
Lieutenant Barnes shrugged. “It seems as if I will be here for the duration of your holiday, Miss Jane.”
“Even so, I will pray nightly to hasten the date of your healthy departure.”
Cassie bumped into me to caution me on my manners, but now it was my turn to ignore her. As our walk continued, we came across a young woman of about sixteen years of age, running up a steep stairwell that connected the beach and our path. She easily slipped under the side railing, and would continually leap down the side of the stairwell from increasingly higher levels, causing considerable alarm for her companions.
“Perhaps we ought to give her a word of warning,” Dr. Barnes mused.
“Do not trouble yourself,” “I argued. “A girl that foolish should not live long enough to breed.”
The Barnes brothers exchanged a look of astonishment, and Cassie was gratifyingly mortified.
I continued, “For the world can easily do without the eight or ten children whose character has been molded by her stupid and ignorant influence.”
Cassie stepped forward. “Oh dear, the tide! The tide! It is remarkable how far it comes in this late in the day,” she noted loudly.
Her attempt to distract the gentlemen was far from successful. I felt the Lieutenant examine me at great length. At the same time, his brother quickly remembered an obligation that required that we excuse them to leave. Success, at last! But just as we had returned to the bustling street, and we were almost free of them, Cassie lost all good sense.
“We have never been able to really thank you for your kindness to Jane. I believe my parents have fixed plans for tomorrow. But can you join us for tea, the day after?”
Lieutenant Barnes accepted graciously, taking care to observe my reaction. I was livid, but would not give him the satisfaction of seeing me vexed. For what else could be his goal in persisting after our company, when I had made it so plain that I disliked him. And I was certain that he disliked me as well.
After the gentlemen departed, I fumed, “I wonder what he means by being so civil?”
“It is a natural talent for some. You certainly did your best to secure his dislike,” Cassie chided.
“That was the whole of my scheme,” I explained impatiently. “If they find me disagreeable, we shall not be obliged to spend further time in their company. Why on earth did you invite them to tea?”
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About the author:
Carolyn V. Murray spent her childhood with the proverbial nose inside a book; between Encyclopedia Brown, the Laura Ingalls Wilder saga, A Wrinkle in Time, etc…she could not start the next book soon enough. At the age of eleven, she approached a librarian and asked to see books on how to become a writer. The librarian was amused, and Carolyn was NOT happy to be the source of this amusement. It would be a couple more decades before she really believed that writing was her destiny.
Her "9-5" life included the good (teaching) the bad (working in casinos) and the ugly (catering in an electric clown suit.) Her writing path took a long detour into the pursuit of screenwriting, where she got selected as a Walt Disney Writing Fellow, had four original screenplays optioned, and wrote one freelance script that made it to the TV screen.
But these days, she's a lot more excited about creating the kinds of books that sustained her childhood. She is drawn to history, biography, love stories, and travel. Jane by the Sea is her first novel.
Thank you, Carolyn for that excerpt. I wonder what he has done to provoke that reception! I look forward to finding out.
Carolyn has very kindly offered to give away e-books of 'Jane by the Sea' to two commenters here. To enter, leave a comment about the excerpt, along with a way for me to contact you if you should be chosen as the winner. This is open to international entrants, and the closing date is the end of the day on Monday, 10 August. Good luck!