Today I’m happy to be welcoming Christina Morland to the blog, and I am particularly happy about this for two reasons. Firstly, although I’ve reviewed two books that she has contributed to, the Quill Ink anthologies, Elizabeth: Obstinate, HeadstrongGirl and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen's Rakes & Gentleman Rogues, I haven’t had the pleasure of welcoming her to Babblings of Bookworm until now.
The other reason that I’m pleased to be welcoming Christina is that although her latest book is Austenesque, it’s not based on Pride & Prejudice, but Sense & Sensibility, which is exciting, as there are so few stories based on S&S. This story, The Year in Between, takes a look at a period right at the end of S&S, where Elinor has married and before Marianne does. For those of you who like to immerse yourself in a nice long book I have the good news that this over 700 pages :)
Let’s look at the blurb and then hand over to Christina for an excerpt, which I think you will really enjoy. She’s also offering a giveaway to a commenter on this blog post.
Marianne Dashwood was "born to an extraordinary fate...to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favorite maxims" (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility). After Willoughby's betrayal, how did Marianne learn to see Colonel Brandon—and herself—in a new light? And how did Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars fare during their first year of marriage?
The Year in Between explores the untold year in the last chapter of Sense and Sensibility. Whether you know Austen's novel well, or this is your first introduction to Elinor, Marianne, Edward, and Brandon, I invite you to visit Delaford, where friendship, love, and all the challenges that come with these gifts abound.
Please note: The Year in Between is a novel that I hope affirms the beauty of love, community, friendship, and family. However, there is at least one storyline that may cause distress in readers who have experienced loss. (There are no graphic descriptions of violence or sex in this novel, if those are areas of concern for you.) If you would like specific details before continuing to read, please visit my author biography on Amazon or the Author's Note in the opening pages of the book. A link to more information is included in both locations.
Excerpt from The Year In Between, Introduced by Christina Morland
Thank you, Ceri, for inviting me to Babblings of a Bookworm! I love visiting this space to find out about all the exciting new Austenesque books making their way into the world. There never can be too much love for Jane Austen and her marvelous characters!
Like so many in this community, I became a reader and writer of Austenesque because I could not get enough of Elizabeth and Darcy. But I also adore Jane Austen’s other novels—Sense and Sensibility in particular. There’s so much to love about Austen’s first novel—the humor, the drama, the social commentary—but what really drew me in was the relationship between Elinor and Marianne. I have a sister I love very much, and though we are both a little more Marianne than Elinor, the dynamic between these two sisters rings true to me.
I also love how little we really know about their eventual love interests. By the end of Sense and Sensibility, it is clear that Elinor loves Edward Ferrars—but who is he? We hardly get to hear from him. And what of Colonel Brandon? He is a man who is both everywhere and nowhere in Austen’s novel.
I wrote this book because I had two big questions I wanted to answer: first, how might Elinor and Edward manage the difficulties so many newly married couples face—troublesome in-laws, financial worries, the question of children? And second, how did Marianne—that steadfast believer in the idea of one true love--overcome Willoughby’s betrayal and fall in love with Colonel Brandon?
The excerpt below takes place a few months after Elinor and Edward have married, at a dinner party hosted by the Middletons at Barton Park. The ladies have gathered in the drawing room after dinner, and Edward’s mother and sister (Fanny) have been especially unpleasant toward Elinor throughout the evening. Marianne has been working assiduously (though not always successfully) at keeping her temper in check, and Margaret (the youngest Dashwood sister, age 14 in this novel) is little better than Marianne when it comes to behaving with the appropriate level of delicacy expected of “proper” young ladies.
from The Year in Between, Chapter Seven:
Marianne wanted to say that marriage, like mourning, did not always have much to do with love, but before she could respond, Lady Middleton said, “I do not like thinking about such dreary topics.”
“No one does,” agreed Fanny, “and so let us turn to a happier subject. Tell us, dear Elinor, how have you found your first days as a wife?”
All eyes were on Elinor then. How calm she appeared! Nothing but a slight flush to her cheeks suggested she understood her predicament: if she praised married life, she was sure to receive some biting comment about neglecting important duties, such as welcoming her husband’s mother properly into her home; if she did not praise married life, she would be thought of as ungrateful.
Perhaps Elinor realized she need not say anything, for there were those in the room only too glad to fill a moment’s silence.
“You look as if marriage suits you, my dear!” cried Mrs. Jennings.
“Oh, no doubt it does,” said Fanny, “and yet I worry for you, Elinor. You appear pale.”
“Pale?” Mrs. Jennings shook her head. “I say she has a lovely color to her cheeks! Indeed, I would almost describe her as glowing—and I think we all know what that means, eh?”
“I do not know what it means,” said Margaret.
Mrs. Jennings winked. “Nor should you, my dear, but mark my words, it won’t be long before you do!”
“Oh!” Margaret’s eyes widened, then narrowed. She turned to her mother. “Why is it that Mrs. Jennings may say what she likes, but I am always told to hold my tongue?”
“Margaret!” Marianne jumped to her feet. “I find I have a headache. Would you walk with me in the garden? Fresh air will surely help.”
They had barely managed to escape the drawing room before they both began giggling.
“You are becoming worse than I am, Meg!” said Marianne. “You know you cannot say whatever is on your mind in a drawing room!”
“Oh, why ever not? And you! You have a headache, Mari?” Margaret snorted. “I never thought I would hear you tell such a falsehood.”
“It is not a falsehood—or not so much of one,” she said as they found their way out into the garden. “Something inside me hurt each time a ridiculous remark was uttered.”
“Then you must have been in a good deal of pain,” said Margaret, and they let loose another round of laughter.
Marianne inhaled deeply. “Ah, smell the autumn air! Is it not delicious?”
“It is cold,” said Margaret, pulling her wrap about her shoulders.
“And see how the moonlight paints the shrubbery silver!”
“I am going to see if the aster is still in bloom,” said Margaret. “They ought to be wilting about now, so I am going to cut a bunch and take it home for my pressing book.”
Before Marianne could protest, Margaret disentangled her arm and raced down the garden path. Marianne followed at a leisurely pace, fingers brushing the glossy leaves of the laurel hedges, eyes pinned on the sky above.
“So many stars!” she exclaimed, as if this were a profound revelation instead of the prosaic observation she knew it to be. Yet even the prosaic could be a form of revelation, for each time she tilted her head back to confront the impossible beauty above, her breath caught and her heart felt full to bursting. Searching her memory for a verse that might do justice to the scene, she threw her arms wide and called out to the firmament: “‘Witness, ye stars, which beautify the skies!’”
“Mari, are you quoting poetry to the sky?” called Margaret from somewhere in the distance.
Marianne laughed and continued wandering, sometimes closing her eyes for the simple pleasure of opening them again and seeing the stars anew. She would never grow tired of such a sight!
But she did grow dizzy, and her neck began to ache, so at last she stopped, took a steadying breath—and saw him.
He stood with his back to her, only paces away. How she recognized him, when his face was not visible, she could not be sure. Perhaps it was his posture—legs firmly planted, spine long and straight, neck tilted back as if he, too, enjoyed looking at the stars. Or was he was listening for something? He was too still, too silent to be star gazing. His was a taut, waiting silence. Did he know she was there?
Her first thought was to turn away without speaking—to leave him in peace, or at least to himself. If they conversed, he would unsettle her, just when she had started to feel a little at peace herself. Yet she found herself asking, in spite of everything, “Do you have a favorite constellation, Colonel?”
He did not start or jump; he did not turn and ask her pardon or claim he had not seen her standing so near. Indeed, he did not move at all, and she realized then that he had known she was there, that most likely he had seen her coming and turned away, hoping she would pass without noticing him.
Seconds ticked by, and still he did not acknowledge her until, finally, he said, “Lyra.” One word, tersely spoken, but she took it as an invitation and went to stand beside him. Together, they gazed up at the sky.
“Lyra,” she murmured when she thought she had spotted the constellation. “There?”
At long last, he looked down at her. Though she kept her eyes fixed on the stars, she felt his gaze, and then felt its absence when he turned back to the sky.
“No, there.” He stretched his arm beside hers—inches of air between them, yet her heart raced.
She lowered her arm, taking care to put space between them. “Is it your favorite because Lyra has to do with music? I never could see Apollo’s lyre in the shape of the constellation.”
“The trick,” he said, taking his own step away, “is to find the star Vega. Do you see how much brighter it is than all the other stars around it? From there—” He traced a figure against the sky, as if that might make the constellation any clearer for her. It did not, but then she was more focused on his how his fingers moved than on the shape they outlined.
“My mother was something of an amateur astronomer,” he continued quietly. “Vega was the first star I remember her pointing out to me.”
Marianne stared at his profile, trying to imagine him as a child by his mother’s side. She could not quite picture it, yet she could see him with a boy of his own, green eyes wide with wonder as his father traced pictures in the sky.
When he turned to meet her gaze, she started and glanced away.
“And your favorite constellation?” he asked.
“Ursa minor, for it is the only one I can identify faithfully.”
He smiled. “Given all the time you spent staring up at the sky this evening, I supposed you had the celestial map memorized.”
“How could you know I was staring up at the sky? When I came down the path, you were turned away from me.” She flinched at her accusatory tone. “No doubt you turned away because you wanted your privacy.”
“I turned away because I imagined you wanted yours.”
She sighed. “I do not know what I want.”
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Christina Morland spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. After overcoming this childhood affliction, she became a devoted fan of all things Austen.
Morland is the author of three Pride and Prejudice variations, a Sense and Sensibility variation, and three Austenesque short stories featured in the Quill Collective anthologies. She is currently at work on a new Pride and Prejudice variation, as well as a fantasy novel that has nothing at all to do with Jane Austen.
When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her creative, mischievous daughter and her maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker.
The Year in Between is available to buy now for Kindle and in Kindle Unlimited!
Christina is kindly giving away an ebook of The Year in Between to a commenter on this post. To enter, just leave a comment on this post by the end of the day worldwide on Monday 15 February. If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)
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