The brain is a curious hoarder. So many facts and impressions are tucked away in its curly crevices. It was my critique partner (Judy Post/Judi Lynn) who pointed out a recurring theme in my Regency Friendship Series—how women of all classes in the past had limited choices. That didn’t stop the brightest or most stubborn from finding ways around pesky barriers. Austen was one of them.
Historical writing requires constant fact-checking, not only for integrity’s sake, but more importantly for me, keeping it real for the reader. Readers of the regency genre are avid students of the time period. It’s not unusual for them to be acquainted with activities in Parliament for any given Season. An error can catapult a reader from the story. This means that it’s like hitting pay-dirt for this anglophile when a fine work on the time period comes along. I just found Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Homeand feel like I’m living high on the hog (or more in line with the time period, in transports) as I read every delicious line.
Happily for me, there’s lots left of the book to relish, and what delights me most is the author’s learned opinion of what drove Austen. Jane, her sister and her mother lived separately from the brothers. This always confused me. Two brothers were wealthy through inheritances. One brother was stingy and another provided assistance, but it was Jane’s insistence on independence and her reasons for it that are illuminated in this book. As I read this intimate accounting of Austen’s life, so much about her emerges.
As writers, we need time alone to do the work. Concurrently, we must have support from either spouses, family or friends, especially friends who write. Jane came from a “middling” household where there wasn’t a great deal of money, and both her parents worked tirelessly to better the finances. Although she came from gentility and there were servants, the females were expected to pick up the slack around the house. The boys would be expected to spend their time with studies. It must have been a constant struggle for Jane to find time to write. There is also the hint of resentment, a vague sort of disappointment that makes one wonder if her brothers might have acted on this due to their lackluster writing attempts and Jane’s subtle brilliance.
The more I read Worsley’s book, the more my ideas about Austen become clearer, mainly because I’ve encountered her barriers. My first husband threw every kind of stumbling block in my way, but my late husband, John, was the opposite. When I sat down in front of the computer, no one was permitted to interrupt. Phone calls, anybody at the door, were put off. No disturbances allowed, a constant wall of protection and support with the exception of quietly setting a cup of coffee on the desk. He read everything and acted amazed and excited. He never boasted about me in public, knowing that would make me uncomfortable, but constantly talked me up to his/our children. Jane knew she would never have this from a spouse and she had marriage offers to decline. Most of her male contemporaries would not have allowed her to write and certainly not seek publication.
Regarding this cover reveal, A Laird’s Promise is about Caroline, who has all options, choices and dreams removed or placed out of reach. All she has is her pride and the determination to protect her fragile-hearted mother. And Alisdair, who must make a choice for the sake of the many, and does so knowing that it will break both their hearts.
The presale starts today, April 20, with the release date of May 01.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML