For those of you celebrating it, Happy Thanksgiving! For international friends, or for those in the US who aren’t celebrating for any variety of reasons, I wish you all the best. For many of us, it is a smaller celebration than normal, and for all of us, we’re coming to the end of a tough year. Whoever reads this, I hope you can still find many things to be grateful for. Thankfulness is both a humble and a powerful choice; it rejects entitlement, despair, and even misery, and says, “I will choose to think on the blessings in my life no matter what else is happening.”
In light of that, I am thankful for this group and thankful to be writing this month! It’s been a full month and a difficult month, (extended family ill, my purse got stolen/cards used, interpersonal conflict in family and friends… <sigh>) but my older two kids and I have been plowing through NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month has been a welcome source of distraction and relief for all three of us. I made accounts for my kids on the website and gave them lower goals (rather than the usual 50k). If you like keeping track of stats and writing projects with graphs, I recommend it. 🙂
During the summer, I was writing sci-fi, but this month I am returning to Jane Austen! So, without further ado, here is my working blurb and first chapter! Any feedback is appreciated, and I will definitely be doing a giveaway when this comes out, hopefully early in 2021!
Hugs to you all!
Lizzy in Highbury
(I don’t really have a title yet! If anything comes to mind, do tell!)
While Lizzy Bennet spends a winter visit with her father’s grieving cousins, Miss Bates and Miss Jane Fairfax, she is befriended by the young lady of Hartfield, Emma Woodhouse. Lizzy is pleased with Emma, especially after losing Charlotte to Mr. Collins, and is cheerfully tolerant of Emma’s attempts at matchmaking. At first.
But when Darcy visits his friend George Knightley, it’s a carousel of mistaken affections and awkward misunderstandings. Lizzy can’t help thinking Jane Fairfax is exactly the ideal, accomplished woman Darcy described those months ago. Meanwhile, some in the gossiping neighborhood think Lizzy would be an excellent young bride for Mr. Knightley.
And of course, the neighborhood–even her old governess–are convinced Mr. Darcy remains for the sake of Emma. What else should keep him for weeks at Donwell Abbey, visiting Hartfield so frequently?
Between Christmas parties, outdoor frescoes, and fireside chats, the Highbury community is in for all the drama their village can hold.
There are as many sorts of friendships as there are birds in the world, some tiny and flickering, some bright red and beautiful, some weighty and surprisingly intelligent. Some “friendships” are downright ill-tempered (swift in flight and yet quick to the kill, even of other birds) and others are large and strong, yet ungainly to look at, never taking flight. Some that form fast are beautiful, and some that form slow die in the nest.
Yet of the friendships that developed in Highbury the memorable winter of 18–, it was not immediately apparent what sort they would be, just as an egg, and even a hatchling, are not immediately identifiable to the novice.
Mr. Knightley, who might be considered one of the more observant bird-watchers of the Highbury neighborhood, in fact told Emma, “For once, I can heartily approve the new friendship you’ve made with Elizabeth Bennet. I think she may be good for you, and you, as it happens, helpful to her.”
Emma stroked the dog that was bumping her hip for attention as they walked across the green swale toward Donwell Abbey. Lizzy had walked on ahead of them with Harriet Smith. They made a charming picture of contrasts, Harriet, blonde and plump, and Lizzy so slender and lively. Though both were very pretty girls, Emma personally admired Harriet’s style.
“I suppose I ought to thank you,” Emma said, “but we have lately had such opposite minds on the matter of my friends, that your compliment instead fills me with disquiet.”
The morning mist was clinging low to the fields to her west, though the sun was well above the Surrey hills. A light wind blew, and the sky was cloudless; the wind was invigorating rather than sharp. The dog’s rough fur was damp with dew, and she knew it would stick to the fingers of her walking gloves, yet she enjoyed rubbing his arched neck.
Mr. Knightley stooped to grab a stray stick with a few crusty brown leaves still attached, thrown down by the storm three days ago, and tossed it, causing the dog to rush away with an excited yelp. “Miss Bennet is obviously a very good sort of girl, cheering and helping her cousins during their bereavement, but more to the point, she is intelligent. I am happy for you to have a friend more your equal in keenness and liveliness. You do not complain, but I know that you miss Mrs. Weston, and whatever you may say,” he spoke quietly, “I know that Harriet can’t truly enter into most of your thoughts and feelings.”
Emma wiped her hand on her morning tucker. There was too much truth in what he said for her to deny it, though the impulse to rise to Harriet’s defense was strong. “I admit that Lizzy is a welcome addition to Highbury, and that she is excellent at raising my father’s spirits. She seems to know just how to joke with him and distract him, although I’ve told her that if I made her long, solitary walks known, she would lose all her credit with him.”
“And I am sure she merely laughed at you. It is good for you to have a friend who is in no way afraid of you. Who is, in some ways, probably your superior.”
Emma fought back an ungenerous impulse to point out that Mr. Knightly had long reproached her for lack of diligence and occupation, and yet Lizzy was far less accomplished at playing and drawing and those things that marked a diligent spirit! But Emma knew that traducing her new friend was unworthy, and that one never appeared to such disadvantage as when doing so. “Lizzy is certainly better read than I am; I suppose that is what you mean. I heard you speaking to her of philosophy.”
Mr. Knightley smiled. “I see your forehead furrow and I will apologize. Superior was too strong a word. I will instead repeat that I am happy for Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax to have her, and for you to have a true friend your age.” He tossed the stick for the dog again, the wind slightly lifting the straight black hair on his forehead. “By the by, I have a friend from Derbyshire visiting me next week. I shall bring him to call on your father and our other friends.”
The conversation continued on to the other notable events of Highbury: the sad, though not entirely unexpected passing of old Mrs. Bates, Jane Fairfax’s subsequent return and unfortunate collapse of health, and Miss Bates’ own cheerful nature for once cracking into something like melancholy. This last was so unprecedented as to have prompted a letter to Miss Bates’s second cousin, Mr. Bennet. Miss Bates had long maintained a correspondence that consisted of letters to him, and a Christmas ham from him.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival was widely applauded as a mark of great gentility and goodness on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Any addition to Highbury high society was notable, and Miss Bates was so well-liked, that any relation of hers was doubly welcome. Emma herself had been rather surprised to take such a liking to Lizzy. Judging only by Jane Fairfax, and by Miss Bates’s tedious description of Mr. Bennet and his five “delightful” daughters, Emma had expected the worst.
That’s all for now! Happy Thanksgiving!