I am delighted to be making this, my debut post, on Austen Authors. I’m honoured to be part of this esteemed group of authors, and I could not imagine better company. I’ll say just a little bit about myself, and I’m sure you’ll all get to know me better over time. I love chatting with people and welcome emails and messages and the like if anyone has questions or just wants to talk.
I am, of course, a huge Jane Austen fan. My first exposure to her writing was when I was eleven and my father gave me his copy of Emma. I read the whole thing and probably understood every tenth word, but I fell in love with the world she painted. Then, in high school we studied Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. More in love than ever, I devoured Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion (my favourite… but don’t tell anyone), and Mansfield Park. I also found a continuation of The Watsons, which I loved, and which was probably my first exposure to JAFF.
But here I have to make a dreadful confession.
I am an unfaithful reader.
There. I’ve said it. I cannot commit myself unshakingly to a single genre. As a teenager and young adult, I flirted shamelessly with science fiction and fantasy. I could not get enough of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books and thrilled to his masterful universe-building – literally, in his case! I rode dragons and sang spells and beamed myself onto the Starship Enterprise with terrible frequency. As I moved into university, I developed a more mature love for mysteries. Jane Austen has always held a special place in my heart, but I strayed, and often, to other women: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, P.D. James… I just could not stay true. Even now, my TBR mountains consist mainly of historical romance, courtroom dramas, and cozy mysteries. How to pick just one? How to stay faithful?
And then I discovered I did not have to. But I could revel in my love for Austen and also for those writers who kept me up late into the night, trying to figure out whodunnit.
And the result is my new release, my very first mystery, starring Miss Mary Bennet. The book is called Death of a Clergyman: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, and it is the first in my Miss Mary Investigates series.
Why Mary Bennet? Why should she be the sleuth? I often wondered about her, about what sort of character lay beneath the awkward manners, tiresome concertos, and recitations from Fordyce. She is the quiet one, who longs to be noticed but doesn’t quite have what it takes to match Jane’s beauty, or Lizzy’s wit, or Lydia’s vivaciousness. But perhaps she has something that the right person will appreciate.
After all, she is educated, handsome (even though she is the plainest of the Bennet sisters she is still accounted as pretty by Sir William), and just needs to step out of her sisters’ shadows to blossom. But being the quiet and ignored sister has its advantages too, because who better to dig up clues than the person no one notices?
And so, when Elizabeth is accused of killing Mr. Collins, Mary steps forward, determined to save her sister from this impossible accusation. Now if only Mr. Darcy hadn’t hired that irritating investigator from London!
Now for the Giveaway!
To celebrate my new book, I’m giving away two eBook copies of Death of a Clergyman available to those who comment below. The Giveaway ends at midnight EST on Wednesday, October 1, 2020. The winner will be announced on Sunday, October 4.
The draw will be done in accordance with Austen Authors’ standard policies. I will contact the winners directly and email a copy of the book in the format of choice (for Kindle or Kobo).
Here is an excerpt from Death of a Clergyman. I hope you enjoy it.
The sun was well past its zenith when [Mary] awakened to the sound of a slamming door. Her little salon, being towards the back of the house, was proximate to the servants’ door and the door to the back garden, through which Lizzy was known to come and go as the mood took her. Mary could see nothing from her nest, but heard everything. Her ears awake before her mind, she was aware of the reverberation of the heavy door as it swung on its hinges, of the sound of wood against wood, metal upon metal, as it was closed again with great force, and of her sister’s footsteps—for she most certainly recognised each sister by her unique gait—as she passed into the house and towards the stairs. But… something did not seem right. They were Lizzy’s footsteps, to be certain, but there was a slowness to them, some dragging quality that pulled Mary from her chair. She rose and moved to the doorway and gasped at the sight of her sister.
There, in the dim light of the hallway, stood Lizzy, barely standing upright, skirts streaked in mud and shredded about the hem, her petticoats in disarray, her boots unrecognisable from the mire in which they were encased. But these were nothing compared to the look on her sister’s face. She seemed stricken, her complexion ashen, her lips white. The sparkling eyes were vacant and the accustomed impish expression replaced by one that bespoke sheer horror. And when she turned in Mary’s direction and held out a hand, begging for help, that hand was scratched and injured and covered in blood. The same blood, Mary could now see as her eyes grew accustomed to the unlit hallway, which covered the front of Lizzy’s dark green walking cape.
Eyes still wide with shock, Lizzy turned to her younger sister, mouth open as if to speak, but then turned away immediately and ran up the stairs towards her bedroom. Too stunned to move, Mary stood in the hallway, wondering whether to go after Lizzy or to leave her in peace, until there came an insistent knock at the front door. It was too late for unexpected company, and no guests were due for dinner or cards. It required only a few short steps from where she stood for Mary to have a good view of the door, and within seconds she was at the corner of the hallway from which she could observe all.
Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, opened the door and stepped back unsteadily. “Sir William,” she curtseyed, her voice unsteady. “Is Mr. Bennet expecting you? I had not been informed, but I shall set another place—”
“That will not be necessary, Mrs. Hill,” the man replied. “I am not here on social matters, but on ones of business. I am here in my position as local magistrate.” He stepped inside, followed by two large men whom Mary knew worked at the smithy and functioned as constables on the rare occasions that they were so needed.
Mrs. Hill stepped aside, mouth agape. “Sir William?” she asked, as the master of Longbourn rounded the corner from his study.
Without a nod or greeting to his friend, Sir William intoned, “I am here to arrest Miss Elizabeth Bennet on suspicion of murder.”