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Excerpt & Giveaway: A Learned Romance by Elizabeth Rasche

Welcome to another great Jane-Austen inspired novel guest post, excerpt, and giveaway.

Elizabeth Rasche’s latest novel, A Learned Romance, focuses on Mary Bennet, the most practical and religious sister. Read about the book:

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning”–Jane Austen, Persuasion, chapter 4

MARY BENNET HAD NEVER WISHED for anything more than to be known as the meek and pious Bennet sister, the one who sweetly brought peace to her family.

BEING THE LAST UNMARRIED BENNET SISTER, the pressure to partake of a London Season with the nouveau riche Wickhams was considerable, no matter how little she desired it; but, her young sister Lydia would not hear a refusal. Mary hoped she could pass her days as quietly as a mouse and maybe encourage her still-wild sister to become a more demure wife and stop quarrelling so much with her husband.

BUT WHEN LYDIA’S FLIRTATION with scientist begins stirring gossip, Mary discovers it is not enough to stay meek and quiet. She must protect Lydia’s reputation by drawing the man’s attentions her way, and convincing the world it is Mary, not Lydia, who attracts Mr Cole. If she fails, Lydia’s disgrace will taint every family member connected with her—Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy alike—and Mary will have no hope for her own future. But alluring a gentleman is hardly the sort of practice Mary has a knack for. Though it goes against every fibre of her being, Mary must turn aside from the peace she craves and uncover the belle within—all while finding her heart awakening in the illusion of romance she has created.

Don’t you just want to know what happens? I love to see wallflowers come into their own.

Now, for today’s excerpt! Enjoy and give Elizabeth a warm welcome:

Hi Serena!

I am so honored to be share this excerpt of A Learned Romance with you and your readers and to connect with readers who also love Jane Austen’s characters. I hope you’ll enjoy A Learned Romance, especially if you’ve been speculating what Mary Bennet’s life might have been like once Jane, Lizzy, and Lydia were married.

Mary accepted her sister’s invitation, sensing Lizzy wanted more than a discussion of what books to purchase. Sure enough, as the Darcy carriage launched into the flood of coaches and carts swelling the road, Lizzy’s brow furrowed with worry.

“I want to talk with you about Lydia. She is as heedless as usual with this Mr Cole. If she goes any further, her respectability as a married woman will be at serious risk.”

Mary twisted the strings of her reticule on her lap. It was nice to feel her sister deemed her worthy as an ally, and Mary felt a small satisfaction that her predictions of grave results might yet prove true, but in her heart of hearts she dreaded interfering. She liked the idea of being the patient consoler in the aftermath of a great scandal, but she had no desire to be an active participant, not even in preventing it. “I fear the same, although I do not see what I can do about it. Lydia does not listen to me.”

Lizzy’s tone was sympathetic, but firm. “You are living in their household. Should Lydia be deemed less than respectable, you will share in that judgment more than the rest of us. That is a great disadvantage—but being in their household also means that you are uniquely placed to help avert a catastrophe.”

Mary slouched a little in her seat. “I cannot do anything. Lydia always goes her own way. She will not do anything just because I tell her.”

Lizzy took her hand. “I have thought of that. You cannot disassemble this flirtation of Lydia’s from her side. Anything we do to try to persuade her will only spur her on more recklessly.”

“Then what?”

“You must work on Mr Cole instead.”

Mary blinked in surprise. “But I do not know him. Why would he listen to me?”

Lizzy leaned back a little. Her increased ease made Mary wary; it meant Lizzy thought she could bring Mary round to her way of thinking. And Lizzy is usually right. Mary squared her shoulders and tried to look imperturbable as Lizzy said, “He may be a sensible man; perhaps all you will need to do is drop him a hint, or tell him outright it would be better for him to stop flirting with Lydia.”

“And if he is not so sensible?” Experience had taught Mary that Lydia’s friends usually were not sensible people.

“Then you must draw his attention away—split it between you and Lydia. There will still be gossip, but it will mean less if the world is not sure who Mr Cole favours. Indeed, if they think she was only paying him attention for your sake, it will be very respectable indeed.”

Mary’s dry laugh hurt her chest, as though it scraped against an old wound. “Attract a gentleman myself? And worse, one who likes Lydia first? Lizzy, this is a poor joke.”

“You can do it. We are a handsome family, every one of us. You think you are not pretty because you wear old clothes and compare yourself to Jane. None of us are anything compared to Jane.” Lizzy’s eyes crinkled in a rueful expression, showing she had had similar feelings.

“You think that because you have made a brilliant match, we are all capable of it. I assure you, I am not.”

“You are pretty and intelligent, and you have a good heart. You can turn this Mr Cole about your finger if you so choose,” Lizzy insisted.

“Nonsense! I could not, and I would not if I could.” Mary’s chin jerked down. “It is wrong to engage in idle flirtation.”

“Is it idle when it saves Lydia’s reputation?”

“The ends do not justify the means.” Mary knew she sounded sententious, but she clung to her idea of virtue to avoid being swept away by Lizzy’s intensity—and a secret gleam of interest of her own. Was it true? Could Mary be the sort of person Lizzy imagined, a wily, charming belle who snatched men from the grasp of her sister? It seemed a ridiculous dream, but one with a glamour that intrigued her despite herself.

“Are there not examples in the Bible of women laying out to attract men for the greater good?” Lizzy said.

Mary could not resist the opportunity to display her scriptural knowledge. “I am no Esther, nor am I Ruth.”

“I am only saying that your morals need not cavil at such a project.” When Mary hesitated, Lizzy made the most of it, bearing down with an entreaty Mary found hard to resist. “Please, Mary. It is for the good of the whole family, and Lydia’s as well. Surely you do not wish to see her scorned and shunned?”

A sliver of guilt slid into Mary’s gut. She had entertained thoughts of some disaster befalling the Wickhams, and readied herself to deal with it—was that not wishing ill on them? Of course I do not really wish to see Lydia hurt. But the thought meant little when she compared it to her self-righteous imaginings of the last few weeks, and she felt she had no real evidence of sisterly kindness to prove her heart pure. Doing what Lizzy asked of her would be proof, though.

“I will speak to Mr Cole, then. I cannot promise more.”

“Thank you, Mary. You have relieved Mr Darcy and me of a weighty burden of worry.”

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

After acquiring a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Elizabeth taught philosophy in the U.S. and co-taught English in Japan. Now she and her husband live in northwest Arkansas, which is over 4,000 miles from Derbyshire. (Doesn’t everyone measure distance from the center of the world, Pemberley?)

She dreams of visiting Surrey (if only to look for Mrs. Elton’s Maple Grove), London, Bath, and of course, Derbyshire. When she has a Jane Austen novel in one hand, a cup of tea in the other, and a cat on her lap, her day is pretty much perfect.

Elizabeth Rasche is the author of Flirtation and Folly, as well as The Birthday Parties of Dragons. Her poetry has appeared in Scifaikuest.

GIVEAWAY:

The giveaway is international and for an ebook copy of A Learned Romance. One winner per blog stop, and winners will be announced a week after the blog tour ends on the Quills & Quartos Facebook page. Good Luck!

Comments

  1. Xena Anne says

    Is Mary about to emerge from her coccoon? Interesting!

    • That’s exactly right! Not that it’s an easy thing for her….You know how stuck in her ways she got, but Lizzy Darcy is there to give Mary a little push when needed. 🙂

  2. Betty Campbell Madden says

    I’m looking forward to reading this story.

  3. Thank you for the excerpt. Enjoyed this between sisters.

  4. Patricia Finnegan says

    Congratulations on the release! Why must Lydia always cause drama? Smh

  5. Congratulations on this release. I like to read books on a Mary who can speak for herself and be happy.

    • Mary has a lot of growth in this book. I think she learned from some of her sisters’ experiences in Pride and Prejudice, and then there is more to learn about speaking up for yourself when you are living with Lydia Wickham! 🙂 Thanks, Patty!

  6. DarcyBennett says

    Enjoyed the excerpt!

  7. A copy arrived on my tablet this morning, can’t wait to read it. Ordered the paperback as well, which I do for all Mary stories.

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