* * *One of the fun things about writing sequels to Pride and Prejudice is getting a chance to develop the minor characters more thoroughly, because Austen left us with quite an interesting cast of them. And because I’ve made it my goal to include at least one new romance in each book in my Constant Love series (alongside, of course, the enduring love of Elizabeth and Darcy), these minor characters have formed part of the couplings in these romances, in both A Constant Love, and now A Change of Legacies. So I’d like to take readers through a little character study for some of these key minor characters, along with an excerpt for one of them. For those who are still considering the series, I’ll avoid major spoilers for A Constant Love, which means there’s one character I’ve left out; I’ll only say this character begins Legacies with a possible arranged marriage looming.
Georgiana (and Lydia)
I’ve always seen so much potential in Georgiana as a character. She was raised in part by the parents who gave Darcy his good principles, but left him to follow them in pride and conceit, and in part by Darcy himself. She nearly eloped with George Wickham, and learned that of course he was really just interested in her 30,000 pounds. And she is very accomplished, yet also very shy. With all of this great backstory, though, she does not even have one line of dialogue in the story, leaving her very open to interpretation for a JAFF author.
I’ve chosen to write her as sincere, and wounded both by the event with Wickham, and more generally in not always having family about her. These things have made her shy, and also insecure. When she thinks things through, she is distrustful, and yet when she does not, she can be a tad gullible. And at 18 going on 19 when Legacies begins (and coming from a sheltered life aside from that summer in Ramsgate), she’s also still rather immature. As someone who’s, well, significantly older than Georgiana, it’s been interesting to try to take myself back to that age, and attempt to see things as she would see them.
When Georgiana’s brother marries, he enlarges Georgiana’s family for the better. Particularly Elizabeth, but also Catherine and Mary, give her the female friendship she has often lacked in life. She does fall in love, in A Constant Love, and begins Legacies married; this does not go particularly smoothly, but she and her husband come out in the end with a stronger marriage because of it.
I included Lydia with Georgiana, because to me, they form strange bookends. One nearly eloped with Wickham and the other did, and they are now, technically, family, although the Wickhams have not been welcome at Pemberley. Lydia, who is yet to really mature, receives less page time than the other young ladies, although she’ll eventually get more later in the series. But in A Change of Legacies, youthful follies like Georgiana’s near-mistake and Lydia’s real one are something several characters examine.
My characterization of Kitty has been largely based on one line within Pride and Prejudice. After listening to his daughters effuse on the militia, Mr. Bennet calls them “two of the silliest girls in the country,” and we read that:
“Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect indifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to London.”
That, to me, always indicated the difference between Kitty and Lydia. It was easy, unfortunately, for Kitty to continue to be led into silliness by her sister while Lydia was in the house, but I think always lurking under the surface was the Kitty who was disconcerted, and maybe deep down ready to mature. She was, then, a strange beneficiary of Lydia’s elopement. Lydia isn’t there to draw Kitty into frivolity, but she does write to her elder sister, telling Kitty of a married life with Wickham that does not seem as good as what Elizabeth and Jane will have in their married lives. As a result, Kitty reassesses things, and decides she wants to get a husband in a more responsible manner.
Kitty has, I think, been a favorite of many readers in the series, because with a little maturity, she becomes a fun, bubbly young lady with a great deal of conversation. She’s that extrovert friend a shy (Georgiana) or introverted (Mary) young lady wants to have, drawing them in to doing fun things and keeping conversation flowing. Yet she’s developing a more serious side, and she shows this, and her increased maturity, in a surprising way in Legacies. Indeed, I should call her Catherine, now, for one of her wishes in that book is to do away with her old nickname.
Sometimes, as an author, things surprise you. At the end of A Constant Love, Mary and a clergyman character were both part of a house party at Pemberley. I hadn’t intended for a romance to form, but somehow, I looked over in the corner of my mental drawing-room, and there they were, conversing intently.
So Mary is one of the reasons why a series began to form out of what was intended to be one book. I wanted a chance to write her romance, and it is the most prominent new one in Legacies. Writing Mary in a romance was a great deal of fun, because she’s a non-traditional romantic heroine – she’s a bit prudish, and still working on comprehending the notion that she might be in love.
Catherine generally just needed to mature, but although Mary had some growth as a character in A Constant Love, there is much more to come for her in Legacies. There is still a part of her who was the character who opined over “loss of virtue in a female” when the Bennet family faced ruin. She is also, I think, the Bennet sister who was most neglected and left to fend for herself. I went in the direction of religion being her outlet for this, giving her a sincere interest in it. But there is a judgemental side that comes with this, and so Mary is both in need of some care and watering, and her own sort of Hunsford moment.
Here’s a little excerpt that, I think, shows some of the dynamic of Mary’s romance. It begins after Mary asked her suitor, who is a widower, if his wife died in childbirth. I should also note that by now he has become part of her family, so it’s appropriate for him to call her by her first name:
“I am very sorry,” said Mary. “I should not have pried.”
“I know the difference between prying and asking because you care, Mary.”
She did care; he was correct. Yet there was such a strangeness to be asking about his wife, when that lady’s death had made possible what Mary now considered. She wished she might think of something else to say on the topic, but truly did not wish to pry, and finally, when enough time had passed, said: “Do you ever struggle with what to say, in your prayers? No, I suppose you must not – you must always be ready to speak to God. I do, though. Sometimes, like now, I wish very much to pray for those I love, but know not what to say – I stumble through as best I can. I want to pray better, but I cannot.”
“I struggle all the time, Mary, particularly when the prayers are for my own family and dear friends. But I believe in a loving God, and I do not think He judges you on the quality of your prayers, only that you do pray. I believe He knows what worries you, even if you do not speak it as well as you might wish to; the important thing is in reaching out to Him. When I am lost, I fall back on the Lord’s Prayer; sometimes, there is no greater comfort, and I think He must hear me and know of all I cannot say.”
“Will – would you say it with me now?” Mary knew not why she asked this of him; his advice was sound, and she might very well have followed it on her own. But she liked the sound of his voice, and she thought the act would bring the comfort of an embrace, without any actual embrace, which would have been horribly improper. In this, she was right – there was something very soothing about his voice mingled with hers, about the familiar words, which left her feeling peaceful when they had finished.
He made his exit then, but did not go directly to the door, instead walking near where Mary was seated, and placing his hand very gently on her shoulder for a moment. Mary felt the weight of that hand for far longer and in much greater proportion than it had been bestowed. She blushed, and felt a strange flutter in her stomach, even though she knew the gesture must have been meant for comfort.
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What a touching excerpt... sigh! I am so looking forward to reading the next book in the series - there were a few story threads that I would like to see continued.
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Book Two of the Constant Love Series
The preparations for Elizabeth’s birth and the beginning of Georgiana’s married life do not go as smoothly as either of them would wish, and they must each consider an alternate legacy for Pemberley, as they encounter opposite sides of the same “what if?”
Meanwhile, for the first time, Mary Bennet finds herself romantically interested in a man, but will her own character and his family get in her way?
A story of love and family; the sequel to A Constant Love.
'A Change of Legacies' is available to buy now!
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