I’m very happy to host Jan Ashton for the second time at From Pemberley to Milton. She visited this blog when she released A Searing Acquaintance last year, and today she returns not only to share an excerpt of her recently released Mendacity & Mourning, but also to talk a little about comedy in JAFF.
I’m sure that like me, many of you have already heard comments from friends like “don’t you get tired of reading the same story over and over again?”, and I don’t know what your reply is, but I always tell them that not only it is not the same story, but also that there are several genres in JAFF, so when discussing with Jan the topics we could approach today, I had no hesitation in accepting comedy in JAFF. It is a subject I find very interesting, and I hope you like it too! Thank you Jan for talking about it with us 🙂
I’m so happy to be here at From Pemberley to Milton and share an excerpt from my book, and talk a bit about comedy in JAFF. Thanks so much for hosting me, Rita!
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Darcy Jr. in a baby carriage…
I never laughed at Flaubert, nor at Hemingway. Dickens’ inventive names could bring a chuckle but Henry James doesn’t make me smile.
But Jane Austen? It’s a joy trying to keep up with her clever observations and witty understatement, her mocking of society and its characters. Especially in Pride & Prejudice. While Sense & Sensibility is scathingly satirical and Emma is gently teasing, Pride & Prejudice is simply funny.
For me, it is all about the conversations. The banter, the back-and-forth dialogues between the various couples in the book are true highlights. Mr. Bennet tells his wife: “You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”
While poor Mrs. Bennet has no idea how her husband’s acerbic humor skewers whatever she says, Darcy and Elizabeth are truly, quite the opposite: misunderstanding the other’s feelings and intents, but never their words.
Jane’s humor was sly and clever but JAFF writers are able to go a little further. Okay, a lot further. Romance and angst are often the keys to a great JAFF story, but the ones I like best leaven the drama with witty dialogue. There are some bawdy bits in Mendacity & Mourning—after all, Thursdays are key to marital felicity and the Fitzwilliam family is fond of fruit, nicknames, and large-breasted women—but I will leave those for readers to discover. (Wouldn’t want to spoil anything…)
The women in a town of five and twenty families are great fun.
Lydia seemed particularly displeased with the small size of their cousin’s head set atop such a large body. She had made the mistake of mentioning it the day before in the presence of her Aunt Phillips, who had tittered for five minutes on how a small-headed man boded well for both his mother and his wife. Mrs. Bennet had joined in the hysterical, knowing laughter while her daughters exchanged the uncomfortable glances of innocents. Elizabeth despised the few moments when her mother and aunt held the advantage in knowledge. It occurred rarely, but when it did, the Gardiner sisters relished their superiority. Elizabeth had tucked away a sudden, unnerving recognition of their resemblance to the Bingley sisters.
The men make an amusing target as well. I’m fond of a Bingley whose eager happiness brings to mind a puppy sniffing about for a bit of bacon. Darcy the Observant is the perfect comedic complement.
“I see. This understanding is not with the Bennet sister you fancy?”
“No, thank goodness,” Bingley replied dreamily before suddenly wheeling around to glare at his friend. “Ho there! I have said nothing of fancying a young lady.”
“But you do.”
“I do, I believe I do,” Bingley agreed. “But how did you know?”
“Charles, do you not recall your algebraic equations?” Darcy said wryly. “Caroline’s vexation multiplied by your eagerness to dispel her reasons for vexation, added to your lovesick expression, divided by the quantity of food you left on your breakfast plate in order to ride more quickly to Longbourn…it all adds up.”
Bingley’s horse slowed as his rider considered the steps in Darcy’s calculation. “Um…”
Yet Darcy is as equally befuddled by love.
“Is the walking pace to your liking, Miss Elizabeth?”
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Darcy.”
“Good. As chaperones, we must keep pace with Bingley and your sister, but it appears we both tend to a faster stride. Perhaps as admirers of nature and clouds, we can slow our steps to enjoy what beauty surrounds us?”
“Eh, yes.” She turned away and gazed at the greenery in the distance.
He gestured with his hand at the cumulus clouds above their heads. “I recall your fondness for the skies. That is as white and happy a cloud as I have ever seen.”
What the hell did I just say? She thought him daft; he knew it. Here he was, spouting insensible soliloquies on puffy white masses, and she knew Cicero. She appeared…wary. Bloody hell.
While other couples are in full bloom of understanding.
“Where is your brother? I thought Robert would join us.”
Richard’s cheeks coloured. “Today is Thursday. He must be home for dinner with his wife.”
“They have an engagement?”
“So to speak. Not that he speaks of it.” Richard found a thread on his waistcoat of great interest.
“I fail to understand. He has to be home because it is Thursday?”
“Yes, young man.” Richard sighed. “He and Harriet have a standing engagement on Thursday. At home. Alone.”
“But you just said…” Realisation dawned, and Darcy’s cheeks reddened as well.
I hope the fun I had in creating these characters, both familiar and original, comes through and that my fellow JAFF lovers will enjoy Mendacity & Mourning.
Thanks again, Rita!
A short scene from Chapter Four
“The sky is most beautiful today, is it not?” Bingley said cheerfully.
“Cerulean, I believe,” Darcy agreed. “And nary a cloud.”
Miss Elizabeth smiled. “All the better for keeping my eyes to the ground.”
Miss Bingley peered at her. “One should observe one’s environs, Eliza, and take in nature’s beauty.”
“And its dangers,” Hurst added drolly. “One never knows when there might be a snake in the grass.”
Miss Lydia snorted, diverting Bingley from his perusal of the sky. He offered his arm to Miss Bennet, and together they led the group towards their respective homes. Darcy cringed as Miss Bingley seized his reluctant arm and began tugging him to follow her brother.
With Miss Lydia’s unwilling arm already captured by Mr. Collins, Darcy offered his spare arm to Miss Elizabeth. She smiled and accepted.
He sought to take advantage of the opportunity to converse and sate his curiosity. “Those are lively young men who escorted you today, Miss Elizabeth. But they were quite well-mannered in church.”
“Yes, they are wonderful boys. They are excited that their father returns tomorrow.”
Darcy’s smile slipped. “You must be happy as well.”
“Relieved, I would say.”
“‘The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him,’” Mr. Collins intoned.
Miss Lydia scowled. If one strained one’s ears, she could be heard muttering, “Beetle-headed vicar.”
“’Tis true. Children should be seen and not heard,” Miss Bingley said. “Louisa and I were terribly accomplished at sitting still and listening to our elders. Charles was indulged by my mother and aunts.”
“It was those curls, Caroline,” Mrs. Hurst replied. “My mother loved his curls.”
Darcy saw Miss Elizabeth glance at the sisters’ wisps of dull brown hair escaping their Sunday bonnets then turn to espy Mr. Bingley’s dark blond curls peeking out from under his hat. When she looked up at Darcy, her eyes sparkled in shared amusement of the picture the sisters painted of a beloved but envied younger brother.
“Mr. Darcy, have you been reading the volumes left you in Mr. Eggleston’s library?” she asked.
“Not those left behind, no, Miss Elizabeth. I unpacked a box of my own books. In honour of those lost to the flames, I am re-reading Milton.”
She smiled. “Will these volumes find a permanent home in Netherfield’s library?”
He returned her smile and replied in a solemn voice. “And chance a cold night and another man desperate for warmth? I think not.”
“Mr. Darcy, my brother would never burn your books!” Miss Bingley cried. “Eliza, you must not be so impertinent. Mr. Darcy has a library to be envied at Pemberley, with hundreds, mayhap thousands, of books housed floor to ceiling.”
“Oh, that is to be envied and admired,” Miss Elizabeth replied. “When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
“‘A room without books is like a body without a soul,’” Darcy said.
“Yes, Cicero had it right,” she responded brightly. Darcy stared at her and nearly guided Miss Bingley on his other side into an overgrown buckthorn bush. “Some say that eyes are the window to one’s soul,” Miss Elizabeth concluded, “but I suspect that books provide another view in.”
“Cousin Elizabeth!” Mr. Collins looked affronted. “Mr. Darcy, please forgive my cousin. She has forgotten Matthew 16:26. ‘For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’”
Darcy rolled his eyes. “Mr. Collins, I believe that Miss Elizabeth meant it as a metaphor.”
Miss Lydia snorted. “Perhaps it went over his head.”
“Nothing flies over my head,” Mr. Collins said indignantly. “I have a butterfly net.”
Thus, at a metaphorical impasse, the two groups parted ways.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.
This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.
Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.
Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.
06/19 Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20 My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22 From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23 More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24 Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25 Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26 Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27 Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29 My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
06/30 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
07/01 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02 Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03 Diary of an Eccentric; Review
Meryton Press is giving away eight ebooks of ‘Mendacity and Mourning’ to eight lucky winners. To enter, please use the following rafflecopter link.
Giveaway Terms and Conditions: Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries. A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mendacity & Mourning by J. L. Ashton.
Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.
Good luck everyone!