Riana Everly back to the blog with her latest Miss Mary Investigates book, Death in Highbury. As the name suggests, Mary Bennet goes to pay Emma Woodhouse a visit. We have a guest post from Riana, and an excerpt of Death in Highbury. There’s a giveaway too! Read on for details.
When political chaos in London forces Mary Bennet to take refuge in the picturesque town of Highbury, Surrey, she quickly finds herself safe among friends. Emma Woodhouse welcomes her as a guest at Hartfield, Jane Fairfax is delighted by her love of music, and Frank Churchill can’t stop flirting with her. But it is not long before Mary starts to suspect that beneath the charming surface, Highbury hides some dark secrets.
Alexander Lyons is sent to Surrey on an investigation, and at his friend Darcy’s request, heads to Highbury to make certain Mary is comfortable and safe. But no sooner does he arrive than one local man dies, and then another!
Soon Alexander and Mary are thrust into the middle of a baffling series of deaths. Are they accidents? Or is there a very clever murderer hiding in their midst? And can they put their personal differences aside in time to prevent yet another death in Highbury?
Guest Post from Riana Everly - Bouts-Rimés
Over the last year, a lot of us have had a crash course in Regency life. Long days and evenings in limited company, keeping a respectable distance from people not immediately related to us, foregoing the joys of the Season due to unforeseen circumstances. Think Elinor and Marianne Dashwood at Barton cottage, or the Bennet sisters stuck at Longbourn during a succession of rain, or Catherine Moreland, alone with only Eleanor and Henry Tilney for weeks on end at Northanger Abbey.
This last year of Pandemic and Lockdown life have seen a plethora of memes to this effect, and more than a few articles, such as this one from The Guardian.
what did people do? Especially in a time before electricity, the Internet, and
Netflix, how did people pass the time? They might read aloud from a novel or
book of poetry. Somebody might play the piano or harp, and if enough people
were about there might be dancing. We see this in Pride and Prejudice, where
Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth, “Do you not feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to
seize such on opportunity of dancing a reel?” and in Persuasion when, after a
dinner at the Musgroves at Uppercross, “the evening ended with dancing. On its
being proposed, Anne offered her services, as usual…”
Another way to pass a long rainy afternoon or an endless evening was with parlour games.
Most of us have heard about the various popular card games and charades. In Emma, Mr. Woodhouse often amuses himself at cards with his friends, and Emma and Harriet Smith undertake a project of collecting charades and riddles. It was through these that Mr. Elton first made his intentions known to Emma, for all that she purposefully misunderstood them.
But there was another game that isn’t as well known, although it sounds like a lot of fun for the literary-minded. This game is Bouts-Rimés.
Bouts-Rimés means “rhymed ends,” and it is essentially a word game where the participants create poems based on a set of pre-selected final words. These are the rhymed ends. So, for example, if you are given the words cat, bat, tall, ball, and fat, you might come up with:
There once was a very large cat
Who tried once to play with a bat,
But the bat was too tall
And he missed at the ball,
For the cat with the bat was too fat.
Okay, I have no future as a poet, but you get the idea.
There is a fun history behind Bouts-Rimés. Around the year 1648, so the story goes, a minor French poet named Dulot complained that he had been robbed, and that three hundred sonnets had been taken. When people expressed surprise at him having so many completed sonnets sitting around, Dulot confessed that he had only written the rhymes at the end of each line. This became the new ‘in’ thing, and people began doing for fun what Dulot had started in all seriousness.
Shall we try a few? Here are three sets of rhymed ends. What can you come up with? At the same time, why not give us some rhymed ends as well. We all need something to get us through this latest lockdown, at least until spring arrives.
(It will be interesting to see how different accents interpret these words and how they are pronounced!)
Excerpt from Death in Highbury by Riana Everly
Here is an excerpt from Death in Highbury, where Mary Bennet is sitting with Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith on a long afternoon.
When she returned to Hartfield, therefore, it was with a small parcel of three books in her hands, and upon greeting Emma and Mr. Woodhouse, she took herself to a sunny spot in the parlour, there to read. She took tea with her hosts at the appropriate time and then sat with Emma and Harriet Smith, who arrived later in the afternoon to help devise entertainments for a gathering the following week.
“Do you often read, Miss Bennet?” Harriet asked as Mary set aside her novel in favour of helping the others find ideas for Bouts-Rimés. It was an amusing diversion of poetry and rhyme, and Mary could not dislike it.
“I suppose I do, Miss Smith,” she replied. “I often find myself alone and without company, but I am never lonely if I have something diverting to read.”
“How sad that you want for companionship! At Mrs. Goddard’s, there are always younger girls needing my assistance or wishing for my attention, and I do declare that I should go quite mad if I had to spend all day with only myself for company! I quite crave being around people.”
“As do I!” Emma asserted. “Before Mrs. Weston married, she was my constant companion. How pleased I was to meet Harriet, for she has become quite indispensable to me!”
Harriet beamed with pride, and Emma cast upon her a look that was more suited for a proud owner looking upon a prized puppy.
“Do you read, Miss Woodhouse? Surely Miss Smith is often needed at Mrs. Goddard’s school, leaving you with little occupation.”
Emma gave a small pout. “I do read! That is, I try. I have been meaning to read more since I was twelve years old. I have set myself a list of books to read, and I do mean to read regularly, but there is always something more entertaining to do, for reading requires industry and patience, areas in which I must admit I am somewhat lacking.”
“But together, we may read,” Harriet volunteered. “Perhaps if we establish a routine, where we meet every week to read for an hour in silence, we may then reward ourselves with tea and cakes! Would that do at all, Miss Woodhouse?” Her eyes were eager and desperate for approval, much like the puppy Mary had envisioned, seeking a reward for sitting up or rolling over. Once more she was struck by how very young Harriet seemed, despite her years being so very nearly Mary’s own.
Mary suppressed a chortle. “That may be an excellent idea for you.” She hoped she sounded pleased and not as judgmental as she felt. “For me, reading is its own reward.”
* * *
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
The previous books in the Miss Mary Investigates Series are also available:
Riana is giving away five eBooks worldwide over the course of this blog tour, chosen randomly from people who enter. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter.
If you don’t like Rafflecopter, you can still enter. Just send Riana an email at email@example.com saying so, and Riana will add your name to the list for the draw. The giveaway will close at 12am EST on February 27, 2021.
Note about comments: If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)
Blog Tour Schedule
Please check out the other stops on Riana's blog tour!
Please check out the other stops on Riana's blog tour!
If you don’t want to miss any of my future posts, please subscribe
If you'd like to be friends on Goodreads then please invite me - just say that you visit my blog when it asks why you'd like to be friends with me.