It has been a busy few weeks in my house. My son graduated from law school last spring and has been studying for his bar exams while doing his clerkship program. He wrote his barrister’s exam for the Bar earlier this month, and we are waiting for his results. My daughter, who is in grade 12 now, has been looking at university programs, and she sent in her applications just this past weekend. She surprised and delighted me by selecting History as her chosen field in three of the four programs she applied to. I’m not quite sure what I thought she would choose, but as a historian myself, I can hardly argue with her decision. We historians might not be rich, but we know a lot of useless stuff and speak strange languages.
And as for me, I published my newest novel. Yes, I’m thrilled to announce that Much Ado in Meryton is now available as an eBook and in paperback.
This is, in some ways, the hardest book I’ve written. It’s a mash-up of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and as such I needed to really emphasize the bristly relationship between Lizzy and Darcy, to bring them into line with Beatrice and Benedick.
But I went too far at first. As I read and reread Shakespeare’s play, I took note of how vicious Beatrice is to Benedick. He gives as good as he gets, and the two hurl insults at each other with little care for the safety of the bystanders. I tried to emulate this in the first draft of my book, and I certainly managed to draw out the vinegar. My poor characters were quite nasty to each other, and no wonder their friends got fed up with the constant squabbling.
It was too nasty, though. I was uncertain about keeping so closely to the Bard’s example, and my beta readers advised me to tone things down. But here was the tricky part – I needed to keep up the tension and the constant bickering between Lizzy and Darcy while giving them room to fall for each other, just a bit. With all the barbs and insults, there had to be that sidelong look of longing or the unwitting acknowledgment of the other one’s wit that suggested their relationship wasn’t entirely antagonistic. Because, as we all know, they had to end up together, and deeply in love at that.
Many, many hours were spent over this, some at the computer as I wrote and rewrote this scene and that, and some while I was out walking or doing other activities, playing ideas over in my head.
So far, I am relieved and really rather tickled that readers’ comments have been great. I hope this means I found that fine line between enough vinegar and enough sugar to make the relationship work, while not abandoning the squabbling duo from Shakespeare’s play.
Did I succeed? You’ll have to decide for yourself!
Here are a couple of excerpts from my newest novel, Much Ado in Meryton.
In her usual calm manner, Charlotte shrugged. “That is a question which Mr. Darcy only can answer. He did not seem angry, nor prone to offer more insults. He might not find you quite that objectionable, Lizzy. He was merely standing nearby.”
“I do wish he would cease. How he pesters me. The more he loiters about, the more I must let him know that I see what he is about.” Elizabeth let out a snort through her nose. “He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I might even grow afraid of him. And that never shall do! I shall counter his satirical eye with my satirical tongue!”
“Do not vex him, Lizzy! You do not know what he might do, or what his aim is.”
“Fear not, Charlotte. I know well enough. He looks at me only to find fault, and in doing so gives me a great deal of fault to find in him.”
“Hush, Lizzy! People can hear you. It can do no good to encourage his disapprobation. He shall never like you now.”
“Let them hear me. It is no secret that we are not friends. Indeed, he is such a disagreeable man that it would be a great misfortune to be liked by him! There. I dare anyone to contradict me.” What a pity that the man was undeniably handsome, and with a quick, if unpleasant, wit.
Charlotte sighed and looked heavenwards. “You will regret your words, Lizzy. Pray, let us have no more of this. Come with me to open the instrument, and then you can play and sing for us. Let Mr. Darcy save his breath to cool his porridge, whilst you save yours to swell your song. It is a far better use for it than this merry war you seem to have on.”
“Very well, my friend. My fingers await your command. Let us find some music.”
No. It was she. That harridan, that shrew in a frock, that harpy in angel’s garb. Miss Elizabeth Bennet. To be true, she was not hard to look upon. She did not, perhaps, have the classical beauty of her older sister Jane, but few women did. Bingley had an eye for beauty and he had found it in Miss Bennet. But Miss Elizabeth was—he grudgingly admitted—rather pretty, and her own form of loveliness increased in his eyes every time he saw her, no matter that her tongue spewed vile acid with every word she uttered.
But there were lovely ladies aplenty in London, and in London he would far rather be, if only to escape her caustic wit. What had she called him last night? A popinjay! A lackey! How dare she? And then she had likened his face to foulest February, all full of frost and storms and cloud! He was not a vain man—heaven forbid—but he had often been called handsome and not only by his aunts. What was that virago on about, anyway? And why did he always find himself in her vicinity, to be victim to her assaults?
He huffed into the wind, letting it blow about his face.
“Are you still in the doldrums, Darcy? I have never seen you like this. Surely one slip of a woman cannot be the cause of all this distress.” Bingley’s cheerful voice dragged him from his stew. “If you stand outside in this weather without a coat or hat, you shall take ill and Caroline will never forgive me. Come, let us ride into the town, for I would like to know the shopkeepers better. I might see about having gloves made; I have heard good things of the glover and I shall need something sturdy for winter. It will give you something cheerful to ponder, rather than Miss Elizabeth.
“Although,” Bingley added after a moment, “I must say I find her quite charming. Her manner is, perhaps, a bit impertinent, but she is witty and bright, and so kind to her sister. There is not one person I have met in all of Hertfordshire who has a single bad word to say against her.”
“How fortunate I am, then,” Darcy grumbled, “that all of her defects should fall about my ears.”
Never fear, friends. This is about as nasty as it gets. And I can guarantee a HEA for our favourite couple.
Much Ado in Meryton is available at your favourite on-line bookseller.