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Monday, 15 February 2016

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid - Excerpt, Guest Post and Giveaway

Book cover: When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid
Today I am welcoming author Victoria Kincaid to the blog. Victoria has just released a new novella, a Mary Bennet story called 'When Mary Met the Colonel', and she has been so kind as to drop by here with an excerpt, a very interesting insight into what prompted her to write this story, and a giveaway of a kindle version of the book for one of you. Read on for more details!


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Excerpt from 'When Mary Met the Colonel' by Victoria Kincaid

The pathway opened unexpectedly into a little clearing with a bench in the center. Fitz stumbled to a stop; the bench was inhabited.

His sudden appearance caused the young woman to start violently and drop her handkerchief. Her head jerked up to see who had disturbed her and immediately tilted down again. It was enough to reveal a pretty face, although perhaps not by conventional standards. Her brown hair was dark and glossy, pulled back in a severe style without any curls around her face. Her nose was a little long and her brows a little heavy for today’s fashions, but her mouth…was wide and pink with full, round lips. A mouth made for kissing. What the hell had provoked that thought?

“I beg your pardon, miss.” Fitz bent to retrieve the handkerchief. Taking it from his fingers, she was careful not to touch him while her eyes remained fixed on the stone of the path. “I did not mean to startle you…” She said nothing, crushing the handkerchief in one hand. “…I believed myself to be alone.”

Her eyes flicked up to his face and down again, long enough for him to discern that they were a dark, rich brown—but red-rimmed. “’Tis not your fault. I-I fear I startle easily.” Her voice was low and melodious. Fitz would love to hear her sing. If only he could inquire about the source of her tears, but he did not even know her name.

Perhaps he could lead to the subject indirectly. “It appears that we are both seeking a refuge from the crowds in the drawing room.”

She said nothing for a moment, but finally, she spoke. “Yes. My sister and her friend wished me to play dance music for them, but there is not enough space for dancing.”

Fitz gave a short laugh. “I thought so as well!” He cleared his throat. “You must be Miss Mary Bennet.”

The young lady dabbed at her eyes with a corner of the handkerchief, which was still fairly clean despite its tumble to the stones. “Yes. The two elder Miss Bennets are the pretty ones, and the two younger Miss Bennets are the lively ones. I am the one in the middle—neither pretty nor lively.” Her hand immediately flew to her mouth. “Oh, dear me! That sounded terribly bitter, did it not? I apologize, Colonel.”

Ah, he suspected that he had now uncovered the reason for her tears; such sentiments might be particularly acute on the day one of her sisters married. Fitz took the liberty of seating himself next to Miss Bennet. “Do you fear to offend my delicate sensibilities?” He batted his eyelashes absurdly, provoking laughter. “Only apologize if you are speaking an untruth.”

Her lips thinned into a flat line. “No. I always speak the truth.”

“No, you do not.” This caused her eyes to raise to his face in bewilderment. “You are quite pretty, perhaps not in the same way as your sisters.” Mary’s lips parted slightly, and she appeared, if anything, even more bewildered. Had no one ever said as much to her? “And if by ‘lively’ you mean that your sisters chase men wearing red coats, then I am quite pleased you are comparatively sedate.” This elicited a giggle from the young lady. “Your presence is quite restful, and so far your conversation is vastly more interesting.”

She blinked rapidly at him as if not understanding his words. Surely someone else had thought to tell her how pretty she was? Then a deep blush spread itself over her face and the part of her neck revealed by her gown’s neckline, much higher than today’s styles. Why did a simple compliment provoke such a reaction?

“Thank you. It is very kind of you to say.” Her voice was almost a whisper. Mary fixed her gaze on a number of blossoms in her lap.

“I did not say it to be kind. It is what I observe.”


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Why Mary? - Victoria Kincaid

Not surprisingly the vast majority of Pride and Prejudice variations focus on Darcy and Elizabeth.  But overwhelmingly the second most popular Bennet sister to write a variation about is Mary Bennet.  I always found this a little curious.  In the novel she is portrayed as judgmental, unattractive, moralistic, and socially awkward. So why is she such a popular protagonist for P&P variations?

While writing When Mary Met the Colonel, I mulled over this question.  Several aspects of Mary’s character became clear.  First:  she’s alone.  Elizabeth and Jane have each other for love and support—they are the responsible, stable sisters.  Kitty and Lydia are partners in crime—chasing officers and getting into trouble.  But Mary is alone, with no one in the family who shares her temperament or listens to her concerns.  Even Mr. Bennet, who might be expected to appreciate her bookishness, thinks she’s silly.  I believe readers—particularly readers of romance—are often drawn to characters who are lonely.  Everyone knows what it’s like to be lonely, and everyone is happy to watch a character find someone to alleviate that loneliness.

Secondly, Mary is a bookish introvert.  I will confess I am a bookish introvert (although I do have better social skills than Mary does—I swear!).  I believe that many readers, and particularly readers of multiple P&P variations, are bookish introverts.  Mary appeals to us because we see ourselves in her.  While we would all love to be Elizabeth Bennet—witty, beautiful, strong-willed—most of us have a Mary Bennet part of our personality.  So it is appealing to read a story in which the bookish introvert finds true happiness—and loses some of her moralistic, pedantic inclinations. 

A lot of Mary-oriented stories have her falling in love with a clergyman or a nice, but dull man.  I wanted to see Mary interacting with someone who had a very different temperament and more interesting profession. I thought about Colonel Fitzwilliam, and then set about crafting a Mary who has hidden depths to entice such a man.  Hopefully other readers of P&P will like this Mary as well!

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Book cover: When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid
Blurb

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.  She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history.

Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.  He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform.

A chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden during Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding breakfast kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.  However, the Colonel cannot act on these feelings since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him.

Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

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Thank you so much Victoria, for this wonderful post! I thought the excerpt was just lovely, and I hope everybody else enjoys it too. Thank you too for the background to what prompted you to write this story; I am always curious to know what prompted writers to follow a particular plot bunny.

Giveaway time!

Victoria is kindly offering a chance for a commenter here to win a kindle version of 'When Mary Meets the Colonel'. To enter, just comment on this post. How do you feel towards Mary Bennet? This giveaway is open to international entrants who comment by the end of the day on Monday 22 February 2016. Please leave a way for me to contact you in case you are the lucky winner. You will be able to get a bonus entry to the giveaway by commenting on my review of the novella, which I'll publish later this week.

44 comments:

  1. Oh my! What a beautiful encounter! I'm so happy when authors give Mary a chance to be happy! I have something in common with her and it's wonderful to dream that even girls like her can find their own happiness! Thanks for the giveaway!

    newyorkgirl82(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Maria, I'm glad you liked the excerpt. I do like the idea that the bookish introverted woman gets the guy. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. I agree, Maria, I think Mary's life has been low on happiness and appreciation, and we all deserve to feel those things :)

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  2. as a strong-willed (my part of Elizabeth) bookish introvert I think I will really like this Colonel and Mary (a very overlooked and under-developed character in P&P) Just hope there is a HEA

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi Vesper, I think my husband would agree that strong-willed is the trait I share with Elizabeth too :). There is definitely a HEA. Thanks for your interest!

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    2. I always want a happy ending too, Vesper, and I was very pleased with the ending of this story.

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  3. There are very storylines that pair these two together. Looking forward to reading this novel & finding out what happens.

    tdungnvu (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Hi Dung, I agree. I like the pairing in part because it gives Mary a chance to show new aspects of her character. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Hi Dung. I hope you enjoy the story when you get to read it. Thanks for commenting and good luck in the giveaway.

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  4. I always felt she was misunderstood. Glad to see more stories with her as the main character

    patkf2007 (at) Hotmail (dot) com

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    1. Thanks for your interest. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. I always felt a bit bad for Mary. She's just trying to find her place in the family, and her sisters are paired off into two groups of friends. As you say, nice to see her as the main character.

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  5. Here speaks another bookish introvert. I can sympathise with Mary, as my younger sister, while not exactly Kitty or Lydia, definitely seemed to have a lot more fun. It was lovely to see Mary end up with someone other than a clergyman or lawyer's clerk.

    Ceri, please don't enter me in the giveaway as I already have a copy. Good luck to everyone. You'll love this short but sweet tale.

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    1. Hi Anji, thanks for stopping by. As yet another bookish introvert I sometimes wish that I was more 'fun' but being fun is just so tiring. There's no way I'd manage to sustain it like Kitty or Lydia!

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    2. Hi Anji, I wanted to find a way that Mary's bookish nature is an advantage romantically. I'm so glad you think I succeeded!

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  6. I like the premise on this one. Huh, I didn't realize that Mary was the second most popular written about Bennet sister, but now that I think on it, she's the one I've read the most JAFF as a main character. I know I felt like she just needed some time to mature and intermingle more with others to leave behind some of her social awkwardness and the reason she had it was to establish her place in the family with all those colorful sisters around her.
    Looking forward to it.
    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.
    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi Sophia, I agree that Mary needed some time to mature -- and more of a chance to shine without her sisters around. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Hi Sophia! Yes, I agree, too, Mary needed some time to come into her own. It must have been very hard to be constantly compared unfavourably to your sisters.

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  7. Very interesting! I am putting this on my TBR list! Not only is the colonel my favorite secondary character and love to see him get more page time, but I quite enjoy Mary showing a greater depth and finding a happy life. Wonderful excerpt. Thank you for the giveaway.

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    1. Cherringtonmb at sbcglobal dot net

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    2. Hi Becky, The Colonel is one of my favorite secondary characters as well. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    3. Hi Becky. I am fond of the Colonel, too, and he was very sweet here, hoping for some love. I found Mary extremely likeable too. I hope you enjoy the novella when you read it.

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  8. I am a huge fan of Victoria's books. Mary and the Colonel are a perfect choice for one another. I feel they both at times have been greatly misunderstood and undervalued. Look forward to reading this book!

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    1. Hi Becky, Thank you very much for your support! I agree that both characters are often misunderstood. It was interesting to put them together. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Hi Becky! It's a pairing I enjoy too. I think Mary is very much a dark horse, there might be a lot going on under the surface that hasn't previously been revealed.

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  9. This sister is so neglected. But then most authors don't write her as very warm or interesting. I would love to read your version of Mary. And the Colonel has always been one of my favorite characters.

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    1. Hi Sheila, I agree that many P&P variations don't make Mary very interesting. I wanted to show that she had hidden depths. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Bless her, she is neglected isn't she, by her whole family pretty much! It is a shock for poor Mary to find somebody that makes her realise that she's worth appreciating.

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    1. Hi Denise, I'm so glad you liked it! Good luck.

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    2. Thanks, Denise. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt :)

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  11. I guess what I should have said is I always thought there was a little more to Mary. This is nice twist.

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    1. That is one of the things that is so good about a book about Mary (or indeed Anne de Bourgh), the author has scope to develop the character in quite a few different ways.

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  12. Oh my goodness, and here I thought I was the only one who wanted to know more about Mary and see her happily married. And I liked Colonel Fitzwilliam far more than Darcy for the longest time. This excerpt is a tantalizing tease. Well done! I must read the whole story!!

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    1. Thank you for your interest. I think a lot of women identify with Mary and want to see her happy. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Well Darcy was always my man of choice from Pride & Prejudice, but a lot of people have a big soft spot for Colonel Fitzwilliam. Him wanting to marry for money put me off him a little, but that's excused amply here! I hope you enjoy the story when you read it :)

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  13. On my wish list! Would be nice to win :)

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    1. Hi Nicole, Thanks for your interest. Good luck with the giveaway!

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    2. Hi Nicole, great idea to add this to your wishlist, it's a lovely short read :)

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  14. Loved the excerpt! I do love the idea of Mary finding love with the Colonel. She needs someone to love and appreciate her, and I think his liveliness and good humor would really bring her out of her shell.

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    pamh5230 at yahoo dot com

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    1. Hi Pamela, I completely agree! I think somebody like that, a sensible man with a good sense of humour would only bring out the best in Mary.

      Sometimes people say they wish she had married Mr Collins but I think they would have been awful for each other. He was much better off with Charlotte in my opinion.

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  15. Mary was the wallflower, the girl who listened, who heard the gossip, who hid behind her sermons. She had four sisters to observe and I think could have easily seen who to and who not to emulate, thus turning out to be a throughly sensible girl in the end in my opinion.

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    1. Hi there. I think Mary definitely had a lot of time to think and not much chance to speak so there could have been a lot going on under the surface.

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