…of most interest to Bennet was Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.
When Fitzwilliam Darcy attends the Meryton assembly, he befriends a quiet, intelligent gentleman. In frequent visits to his friend’s home, he becomes acquainted with the Bennet family of Longbourn. Yet Mr. Darcy is distracted by a strange feeling of having met some of them before.
This is a different Bennet family from the cleverly crafted one in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. This Mr. Bennet is a responsible gentleman who takes an active role in the education and upbringing of all five of his daughters, manages Longbourn to be prosperous, and displays loving guidance toward Mrs. Bennet—a gentle, caring mother and wife.
There is a mystery lurking at Longbourn—a secret unknown even to Elizabeth Bennet—and Mr. Darcy is entangled in its extraordinary revelations.
Who is Thomas Bennet?
This book contains one brief scene of non-explicit sexual violence that may be concerning to sensitive readers. The sexual violence does not include Elizabeth Bennet.
The story is a Regency romance closely based on the plot of Pride and Prejudice. The inciting incident that my book explores is that in Austen’s original, Mr. Bennet’s lack of involvement in the goings-on in his family may have had a significant contribution into the actions of all the Bennets, and therefore is key to the back story of P&P and to the major incidents that unfold during that story.
If Bennet were changed, and totally opposite, it could affect many aspects of P&P, and my imagination went from there. It would be reasonable for him to be friends with Darcy. It would be reasonable for him to challenge Wickham’s story, and to make his community aware of Wickham’s profligacy.
But how to make the change in that main character? That’s the fun part!
This excerpt is from Chapter 8, where we travel back in time to 1792, when Bennet was a young man and newly married to Fanny.
It was the third day of our voyage, and I was leaning against the ship’s rail taking in the sea air in hopes of fighting a mild bout of nausea, relieved that thus far I had not lost the contents of my stomach due to the unfamiliar movement of the ship. A deep, booming voice called out, “Good day, Bennet, you sorry old soul! Not feeding the fish today? Are you finally getting your sea legs?”
I turned to see the ship’s captain approaching me with a huge grin on his face.
“Excuse me, Captain, were you addressing me?” I asked as the captain stopped alongside me at the rail. I briefly noted this diversion had distracted me from my nausea: a sure relief.
“Yes, Bennet, could you not hear me? Are you getting deaf in your old age?” The captain grinned and spoke in a teasing manner as he clapped a hand on my shoulder. His brown and coarse face crinkled as if it were accustomed to laughing.
“I beg your pardon, Captain, but my name is not Bennet. You may have me mistaken for another.”
“Not Bennet? You are mocking me, sir. I see you have not your walking stick with you, but . . . ” He squinted and leaned towards me, and his eyes ran over my face. “My word, indeed you are not he!” he said incredulously. “How strange! You bear an uncanny resemblance to my friend as he looked when we were in Cambridge together. I had momentarily forgotten his unfortunate injuries of late else I would think you are playing some kind of trick on me! Bennet now has a bad leg, and he is missing part of his right ear; otherwise you are very nearly his twin!
“Oh, I must beg your forgiveness; my manners have escaped me. We have not been introduced. I am Captain Wood, at your service.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Captain. I am called Miles, sir.” The captain laughed.
“Mr. Miles, good, good. I am so very sorry to give you so much bother, but you do look shockingly like my dear friend from university, Mr. Thomas Bennet, most recently of Gloucestershire, who is also travelling with us to the colonies. Are you not a distant relation?”
“I am not aware of any relation as you describe. It may be just coincidence.”
“Or twins separated at birth, I say! Mr. Miles, you must give me leave to introduce you to Bennet during the course of this trip. You will then understand the source of my bewilderment, for seeing Bennet will be as if a looking-glass were placed in front of you!”
The captain shook his head and continued jovially, “What confounded mystery drew you to precisely the spot I last saw Bennet? My friend was very ill yesterday and spent the morning relieving himself of his breakfast over the rail where you now stand. He was so weak his wife had to hold him upright. You, sir, are the ghost of his Cambridge past, haunting his sorry seasick side of the ship’s rail!” The captain barked out a laugh and seemed well pleased with his attempt at a poetic jest. “If you would care to join me for dinner this evening in my private dining room, I would be pleased to make the introductions.”
“I would be happy to do so, Captain,” I said, thinking the captain’s company would be enjoyable and make the long journey seem less tedious.
“Very good, Mr. Miles,” he replied. “I do hope you are not also seasick. If so, I can recommend some remedies you might consider.”
“Thank you. I am just a little nauseous below deck: nothing that fresh air cannot cure.”
“Good. Well then, I will likely see you walking the decks frequently during rough seas.”
“During calm weather as well, sir, as I enjoy walking when I cannot ride or fence.”
“Would you care to join me while I make my regular rounds?”
“I would be delighted to.” I followed the captain’s brisk stride.
“If you would not mind my asking, what brings you to Bermuda?”
In 2009, during an extended illness, Suzan Lauder discovered a dog-eared paperback version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and having vaguely recalled hearing Austen was a good writer, decided to try it. That led to a desperate obsession. After being horribly disappointed to find there were only 6 books, she went on to read the juvenilia, the letters, autobiographies, movies, fanfiction, and everything possible Austen. She continues to read, write, and love anything inspired by Austen.Her first book, Alias Thomas Bennet—A Pride and Prejudice Variation, was published by Meryton Press in mid- November 2013.
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