Good Afternoon everyone,
Today I am welcoming a very special guest to From Pemberley to Milton: Mark Brownlow!
As you know there aren’t many male authors writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction, and even if this may not be a consensual idea, I believe a male’s writing is a little different then a female’s writing, so I am always very curious to read their books. Mark Brownlow’s book, however, as has made me even more curious because it is told from a very different point of view: Mr. Bennet’s! I had never read a book from his perspective, so I’m very curious to see what this author is bringing us 🙂
Mark is sharing a guest post and an excerpt of his most recent release Cake and Courtship and I hope you enjoy them both! Oh, and don’t forget to participate in the giveaway, I must say this is the sweetest giveaway I’ve ever held 🙂
Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid, a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails.
Science degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and Reading prefaced a short-lived career as a research academic. Since turning from facts to fiction, Mark has also worked as a translator, agony aunt, marketing consultant, journalist, business writer, web publisher and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.
If there is no pen to hand, he can be found watching his kids play football or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume or historical drama.
Thank you, Rita, for having me on your blog!
When you think of Pride and Prejudice, I bet it’s not just the characters and story that come to mind. We all have vivid images of the houses, villages and towns that feature in Jane Austen’s novels, whether through our imagination, through the TV and film adaptations, or through visiting places like Bath, which hosts much of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.
I was lucky enough to spend much of my childhood near Bath, in a village outside the market town of Devizes, whose cheesecakes Jane Austen once praised in a letter to her sister, Cassandra. Devizes is also close to Lacock, which featured in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice TV series.
Unfortunately, I only had eyes for football back then. By the time I discovered an appreciation for classic literature, I had moved to Vienna (which I’m pretty sure Jane Austen never visited).
In my novel, Cake and Courtship, John Barton tells Mr Bennet of his love for a “Miss Anne Hayter of Bath”, which was excuse enough for me to go see my mum again and visit the city for a coffee and…ahem…“research”. Over the course of the book, Mr Bennet’s involvement in John’s troubled courtship of Anne brings back memories of the past and clues to the origins of his somewhat cynical character. This includes recollections of his own time in Bath:
…the memories came cascading back. My delight at discovering a Bennet Street. The sumptuous buns I used to buy by the dozen, their fragrance tormenting me until I reached my lodgings. The bookstores on Bond Street. The young ladies taking walks across the Crescent Fields and on through Cow Lane to Weston. I wondered if they would remember me, some twenty years later.
Maps, books and other resources are wonderful when writing historical fiction. For example, you can overlay a map of modern Bath with one from 1818 here. That’s where I first noticed the city has a Bennet(t) Street! But nothing beats a visit, especially when a city retains much of its original character. In Bath, there are fewer naval officers and more tourists than in the 1800s, but you still half expect to meet Anne Elliot around the next corner. The day trip with mum took in the pump room…
…and, of course, the Jane Austen Centre, where I hoped to pick up some writing tips from this lady (she remained strangely reticent, possibly considering my addressing her without introduction as an impertinent freedom):
I also met Mr Bennet himself, outside the centre. I didn’t have the courage to tell him I was writing his memoirs.
Bennet(t) Street passes the Bath Assembly Rooms. Of course, the Meryton Assembly Rooms play an important role in the Pride and Prejudice story, whose first part provides an ongoing backdrop for my book. In this excerpt from Cake and Courtship, Mr Bennet is determined to learn more about the art of courtship so that he might help his young friend. He listens to the family’s description of the Meryton Assembly with more than usual attention. I hope you enjoy it!
Like shot birds, Mrs Bennet and the girls thumped down into sofas and chairs to sit motionless as they gathered strength for the traditional post-assembly review. Kitty announced their return to life with a giggle, no doubt remembering a touch of a gentleman’s hand on the dance floor. Then she and Lydia fetched cold meats, bread, and wine to provide stronger fare than the titbits of gossip now to be shared. The kitchen table, room bereft of cooks and servants, played host to this feast.
“Mary danced with Mr Toke,” whispered Lizzy as I tore off a lump of bread.
“I am sorry to have missed that spectacle,” I whispered back. “Toke dances like an overburdened merchant ship, unable to turn easily and always on the verge of capsizing. It is a most diverting sight. Still, Mary seems to have survived the ordeal well enough. You enjoyed the dance, Mary?” I said, raising my voice.
“It was tolerable, Papa.”
“You seem happy, Jane,” I noted. “Perhaps you have taken too much wine?”
Jane turned her face away. I could not see in the dim candlelight, but I was sure she blushed.
“Too much wine? Such nonsense,” said Mrs Bennet. She laid her hand on Jane’s arm. “Of course she is happy, for Mr Bingley would not leave her side all evening.”
Jane shook her head. “Not all evening, Mama.”
Her mother did not allow anything as trivial as the truth to contain her excitement. “Perhaps he did stand up with some other girls, but his eye was always on Jane. And well it might be, for the others were all very plain.”
“So tell me, how did you all divine Mr Bingley’s attachment? What did our friend do to inspire such a diagnosis? What makes him so worthy of admiration?” Curiosity crept across Lizzy’s face at my questions.
No satisfactory answer was to come, since Mrs Bennet and our two youngest took my words as a cue to rattle off a series of compliments on Mr Bingley’s cheekbones, chest, legs, and other favourable features. The girls regarded him as perfect, a declaration that revealed their lack of experience with men. Even Achilles had his heel, though I daresay Mrs Bennet would have forgiven him this blemish given the likely size of his olive plantations.
“He impresses with his conversation,” said Jane.
“At last,” I said. “An advantage not explained by his physique alone. And what passes for good conversation between young people these days?”
“He is—” began my wife.
“Attentive,” said Jane.
“He complimented me on my gown,” said Kitty.
“He is modest,” said Lizzy. “He has his pride, but only that which is due to him through his position and character. And he does not consider himself above others, whatever his station in life might encourage him to think. Unlike others.”
“Others?” I said.
“I was thinking of one of Mr Bingley’s companions—Mr Darcy.”
Want to know more about this book? You can visit the below blogs:
Mark Brownlow would like to offer either a paperback of Cake and Courtship or Viennese chocolates to a random commenter. The giveaway is international and you can leave your comment on this post until the 15th of March to be elegible for it. Don’t forget, any comment or idea is welcomed and these are Viennese chocolates we’re talking about (says the chocolate addict) 🙂
Good Luck everyone!