The Trouble With Miss Bingley, by Jann Rowland

The Trouble With Miss Bingley, by Jann Rowland

Ah, Miss Bingley. A character we all love to hate at times. We’ve all seen stories where Miss Bingley has tried to compromise Mr. Darcy to get what she wants—I’ve used the device as a plot point several times myself. On one occasion, in a novel co-authored with Lelia Eye, we actually had her succeed after a fashion. Not that it did her any good, as Darcy flatly refused to marry her.

I tend to spend a lot of time considering my past writing, what I’ve done and where I’ve gone. As anyone who follows me knows, I have lots out there, so there is a lot of material upon which to reflect. As an aside, that’s one of the reasons I don’t read a lot of P&P fiction by other authors anymore—I have so much that I can barely keep track of what I’ve used and what I haven’t, and I don’t want to be influenced by others and assume something I think of is something I actually saw someone else do. That way, if an idea I have is similar to something already out there, I can chalk it up to great minds thinking alike and move on!

Back to the original point, I notice that I go through certain trends in my writing, plotting, etc. For example, when I first started out, my Caroline Bingley was almost always a reprehensible shrew with very few redeeming qualities. I’ve gone through similar phases with most of the other characters too, and I will still write certain characters worse than Jane Austen wrote them if a story depends on it. But I think where I’ve grown is that I attempt to inject many more shades into the characters I write than I used to. Few people, after all, stray very far to any extreme. We’re all mostly in the middle with strengths and weaknesses and so on. Characters in a story should reflect that.

Sorry for the rambling. I suppose I’m in a bit of a rambling mood this morning. The point is, I’ve seen lots and written lots of Caroline Bingley acting to ensure she became mistress of Pemberley regardless of Darcy’s wishes. But would she have considered such a thing in Jane Austen’s original text? Would Jane Austen have written her as trying something if she had taken the story in a different direction?

Well, the initial answer would seem to be no. After all, she had ample opportunity to try something when Darcy stayed at Netherfield. Then again, she did not seem desperate then. What about when she stayed at Pemberley and Elizabeth showed up unexpectedly? By that time, she must have known her dreams were slipping from her grasp. At the same time, you may be able to argue that she did not have the opportunity, for Darcy went to London to find Wickham and was gone for some time.

Your mileage may vary on this question, but I would propose that while Miss Bingley certainly did wish to have Darcy for a husband, she was, in fact, proper about it, though perhaps not quite sensible. She did not attempt to compromise him, and even if she had thought of it, she obviously rejected the notion. She is not a completely reprehensible character, though she certainly has her faults!

Which brings us to the second part of my post today. While I do not think that Miss Bingley would have attempted a compromise in Jane Austen’s work, it’s enormous fun to play with the characters. Miss Bingley, her motivations, her designs, her obvious lust to climb society’s ladder could easily have been written in such a way as to provoke enough desperation that she would throw all caution to the wind. It occurs to me that it would be an interesting tale should Miss Bingley see Darcy’s interest at Pemberley and attempt to compromise him while his thoughts are fixed on finding Wickham and Lydia. I may just give writing that a shot someday.

What I have for you, however, is something different. What if Miss Bingley makes an attempt at Darcy, but it backfires in such a spectacular manner as to lead her to a different life than what she supposed? That is the subject of the excerpt I present to you. The setting is the same as the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy comes to Netherfield with the Bingleys, but in this one, he’s wary of what lengths Miss Bingley might contemplate to have her way. The title of the story will be An Agreeable Compromise. If you can see multiple possible meanings in that title, you are completely correct!

*     *     *

Miss Caroline Bingley was going to be a problem.

Darcy knew this instinctively. She was sister to one of his closest friends, Charles Bingley, a woman of high confidence, a woman forthright and bold. Since Darcy had made her acquaintance two years ago, he had been in no doubt of her ambitions—Miss Bingley believed she was the best possible choice to become his wife and mistress of all he possessed. Putting aside any considerations for her position in life, that of the daughter of a tradesman, Darcy had never had any affinity for her, had never considered her as anything other than his friend’s sister.

But Miss Bingley was nothing if not determined. She flattered and flirted, simpered and smirked, plying him with her brand of allurements, which Darcy was forced to confess were not inconsiderable. Miss Bingley was not unattractive, being both dark of hair and fair of countenance, perhaps a handsome woman rather than beautiful. Yet, the avarice that always shone in her eyes in his presence, her jealousy for his attention to any other woman, however slight, rendered what should be a pleasing countenance ugly.

Of more importance to Darcy’s current situation, Miss Bingley was the mistress of his friend’s newly leased estate. As Bingley had asked him to join them to lend his assistance and knowledge of estate management, there was little he could do to avoid her. Thus, armed with the knowledge of her ambitions, Darcy endured her as best he could, parrying her attempts with the lightness and grace of an expert fencer, dodging when that did not work, and retreating when he must. Any other woman might have recognized not only his lack of interest, but his active dislike for her manners. Miss Bingley, however, was not any woman.

“Shall I gird you with your foil, Mr. Darcy?” asked Snell, his valet, one morning a few days after his arrival at Netherfield Park. “Perhaps your cousin, the colonel, will lend you his cavalry saber so you may always have your weapon at hand.”

Darcy snorted at his man’s dry jest. Just as Miss Bingley was no normal woman, Snell was not the typical manservant. He was, in fact, a bit of an oddity, fastidious and prickly, though he took care of Darcy with the zeal of a servant of many years. Most valets would not presume to speak so in their master’s presence, but that was one of Snell’s quirks, for he pushed the boundaries between master and servant. Darcy would not think of replacing him, for the man was cool and efficient; there was nothing Darcy could say about his diligence.

“A cavalry saber might not be enough,” mused Darcy. “Perhaps a lance would do.”

The slightest hint of a smile appeared on Snell’s face, the most the man ever allowed himself. “A lance is unwieldy when not on horseback. Besides, I do not believe you have ever had training in its use.”

“Perhaps that is so,” said Darcy. “Then I suppose I must rely on my wits to foil all Miss Bingley’s attempts. Do not concern yourself, Snell—I believe I may safely say that I shall never submit to Miss Bingley’s attempts to connect herself to me.”

“Your servants will all feel the reprieve at hearing it, sir.”

*     *     *

Well, have I whetted your appetite? While the story is not about Miss Bingley, the title certainly in part refers to the consequences of her actions. And Snell, the quirky manservant I have used in several stories will definitely have a part to play. An Agreeable Compromise is scheduled for a July release.

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14 COMMENTS
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DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
June 8, 2022 7:12 PM

Enjoyed the excerpt!

Glynis
Glynis
May 29, 2022 9:47 AM

Darcy on the alert and with back up courtesy of Snell? hopefully Caroline won’t stand a chance of success!

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
May 25, 2022 6:26 PM

Thanks for sharing the excerpt. I look forward to reading the book!

Linda A.
Linda A.
May 25, 2022 6:09 PM

Lovely excerpt! Thank you for sharing.

Gianna Thomas
AuAu
May 25, 2022 5:55 PM

Thank you, Jann, for my laugh for the day. I love Snell. Hope to see more of his comments. And I look forward to July and reading your latest.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
May 25, 2022 11:23 AM

Yay! I look forward to reading this. A man of means should always have a Snell on hand. What that man can’t do can’t be thought of. I love a good Caroline comeuppance story. It’s too perfect. You can do just about anything with and to her. The choices are wide open. I am excited about this new venture and wish you all the best and much success. Blessings.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
May 25, 2022 10:57 AM

Cool excerpt! I think I like Snell!lol Sounds like Darcy is on alert!

Charmaine M
Charmaine M
May 25, 2022 10:53 AM

NICE!!! Snell! What a guy! I like knowing that Mr. D has a cool valet. As for Miss Caro, as much as she is a ‘villain’ she is sometimes a bit of comic relief…she always makes me chuckle with your obvious attempts to get Mr. D’s attention. LOL. Looking forward to the release, write on Jann!

Shana Jefferis
Shana Jefferis
May 25, 2022 9:35 AM

A lovely taste of what will be a delicious meal!

I have always wondered about Darcy’s relationship with his servants. We get to hear a lot from Mrs. Reynolds in P&P, but she is speaking outside her master’s presence. Darcy actually mentions his steward. Bingley references his reliance of Mrs. Nicholls getting the white soup ready before he can host the ball at Netherfield. I know its possible to put too much master-servant interaction in a book, but I’ve always wondered how Mr. Darcy directly treated his servants. How did he speak to them? What did he think of them? What did they think of him? He could have been a brute, and yet he was not.

My third book is finished and I am hunting for a publisher (hunting not shopping, mind you). But this book delves a little more deeply into Mr. Darcy’s history with Mrs. Reynolds. Because she’s known his since he was four years old, she’s had ample opportunity to see a side of Mr. Darcy that no one else gets to see! I wonder if your book does something similar, perhaps with Snell?

Nicely done, Jann. I look forward to reading your finished work.

Shana

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
May 25, 2022 3:18 PM
Reply to  Shana Jefferis

I don’t mean to jump into your conversation with Jann; however, have you considered Quills and Quartos Publishing. It was founded by authors for authors. It’s a thought.

https://www.quillsandquartos.com/

Shana Jefferis
Shana Jefferis
May 25, 2022 4:04 PM
Reply to  J. W. Garrett.

I will take all suggestions happily, and yours is a good one. Unfortunately, I already have a rejection email from them. They are a lovely publishing house.

My hunt continues…

Rebecca L McBrayer
Rebecca L McBrayer
May 25, 2022 7:58 AM

Oh I am so excited! I appreciate your stories and enjoy how you can paint Caroline in a positive way in An Unlikely Friendship and a villainous way. Thanks for your post!

SamH.
SamH.
May 25, 2022 7:25 AM

Darcy is firmly on his guard! I’d say poor Caroline, but I wouldn’t mean it …

Patricia
Patricia
May 25, 2022 6:21 AM

Interesting … will be waiting.

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