Once Wicked, Always Wicked

Vanessa here,

“If you get… me out of this … Lord…” No, she was not supposed to bargain with God. “Please God?”

The shrub tore a little further. Only Honore’s arms and hands clung to the earth. Only two thread roots still clung to thin soil. So, apparently God did not please. -A Reluctant Courtship

We have all been there, begging God to get us out of some trouble, something horrid we wrought upon ourselves. Laurie Alice Eakes showcases a fallen woman, Honore Bainbridge, whose past mistakes make her shunned in society and threaten to steal her chance at true love.

This is the gripping tale, the concluding story of the Daughters of Bainbridge House Series, A Reluctant Courtship. The rich message that God’s forgiveness is real, even when we don’t feel it, is meshed with this suspenseful romance.

Hanging from a Cliff
Hanging from a Cliff

When we meet Honore this time, she’s literally hanging on to a cliff, trying to save her life. The memories of her past sins wash before her eyes. A part of her heart tires of the shame, causing her to wonder if it would be easier for everyone if she just let go.

Now, Honore’s crime was heavy for the 1800’s. She’s been caught kissing two bad men, a traitor and a murder. Everyone ostracizes her, yet God still gives her a caring chaperone as a friend. God never leaves or forsakes us, even when we think He has.

No one wanted to marry Honore, any longer. If her escapades with a handsome rake during her first Season hadn’t been bad enough, getting caught kissing another gentleman in her brother-in-law’s organgery—and then that man turning out to be a murder—sent Miss Honore Bainbridge flying beyond the bounds of acceptability. -A Reluctant Courtship

Everyone has those moments of discouragement when we know we aren’t good enough. The taunts are unforgettable.

You’re not good enough.
You are worthless.
No good, just like your father.

Even the hero, who has questions of his own character, judges poor Honore (Pot and kettle syndrome).

“Such beauty and courage shouldn’t be connected with a morally suspect character.” -A Reluctant Courtship

Neighbors and peers judge Honore.

Not a yard away, the Devenish ladies tittered behind fans or gloved fingers.
“Little more than she deserves,” was followed by “Worst misalliance yet.” -A Reluctant Courtship

Fans a Twitter
Fans a Twitter

So, she loved a few bad men. Who hasn’t? But in the 1800’s, connections in the war weary England meant everything. With her earthly protector (her father) gone, Honore has to withstand shunning and evil gossip, even at church. At one point, Honore internalizes the guilt.

I make so many mistakes I think God no longer listens to me. -A Reluctant Courtship

But Laurie Alice doesn’t leave Honore or the reader without hope.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God -Romans 3:23

She allows the saving grace of Jesus Christ to touch Honore.

You are not alone. God promised to never forsake us, and His promises are true.
Your willfulness does not stop God from loving you. -A Reluctant Courtship

Finally, Honore allows God’s hope to shine through her.

“I do not deserve Your help, but I am asking for it anyway. This time I am simply going to believe You are here with me.” -A Reluctant Courtship

When Honore surrenders to the fact she is forgiven by the One Person that matters, she is able to focus on doing what she does best, throwing her whole heart into saving the hero. Hopefully, she’ll live long enough to know the love of a good man.

I asked Laurie Alice, what she wants the reader to take away. Her message is clear:

No matter what you have done, no matter how many mistakes you have made, God’s love reigns supreme and He loves you regardless. Nothing is beyond redemption.

May everyone be blessed with this understanding.

For a chance to win a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card today, answer the question below in the comment section. If you answer the question, your name will also be entered into our Regency Grand Prize giveaway in honor of the release of A Reluctant Courtship. The giveaway includes a tea cup, a package of tea, a box of chocolates and a $10 gift card (to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble).

A Reluctant Courtship
A Reluctant Courtship

Today’s question: Have you ever made mistakes you think are beyond God’s redemption? If you can, we would be blessed to learn how the Lord worked in your life.

The Men of Pride & Prejudice and A Chance to Win

In my ruminations on the male characters in Pride & Prejudice, I first decided I might discuss them from the least important (in my eyes) to the most important, Mr. Darcy, of course. Or perhaps, I would discuss them from Mr. Darcy to each lesser character. A third option might compare the men from Lizzy’s sphere with the men associated with…Mr. Darcy.

Do you begin to see my dilemma? Jane Austen wrote a book about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and amazingly ties each male character to the leading man in an intricate way while creating, at the same time, very individualized, stand-alone men in their own right.

So it seems I must discuss each character’s wonderful foibles and personalities (in no particular order) and how they re-make Mr. Darcy into who he becomes, the hero in one of the greatest love stories ever written (opinion mine).

Mr. Bennet

Let us first examine Mr. Bennet. Considered a gentleman, he allows his children, especially Elizabeth, to be who they want to be not who they should be. Lizzy, with her love of books and wonderful sense of the ridiculous, becomes his obvious favorite as the one most like him. And he plays a significant part in Darcy’s preference for Elizabeth.

In describing the really “accomplished” women of the day, Darcy adds, “…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Darcy is already interested in that quality in Elizabeth, one fostered by Mr. Bennett.

She and her father also have their share of fun at Mr. Darcy’s expense until Mr. Bennett discovers what he believed about Darcy to be untrue. Darcy’s intervention in the case of Lydia and Wickham was the eye-opener and he was finally pleased to say to Elizabeth, “I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy.” Mr. Darcy began the process of putting himself out for others out of his love for Elizabeth.

Mr. Bingley

Next is the sweet, loveable Mr. Bingley.

I wished to start out with him because he establishes the connection with the Bennetts that allow us to be introduced to Mr. Darcy’s harsher side. We cannot learn of it any other way because the evil of Mr. Wickham cannot begin this early in the story.

But it is through this amiable relationship that we also see a wonderful change in Mr. Darcy. He convinces Mr. Bingley that Jane Bennett does not care for him, but we know it is her low birth that Darcy disdains. He will stick to his story even in the writing of his letter to Elizabeth at Rosings, “…I shall not scruple to assert that the serenity of your sister’s countenance . . . gave me the conviction that . . . her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

He becomes forced to rethink his actions and in the end must apologize to his adoring friend. The character development of Mr. Darcy through Mr. Bingley is wonderful, compliments of Jane Austen!

Mr. Collins

Shall we move on to Mr. Collins? Who but Ms. Austen could create such a character?

He is a buffoon, a name dropper, a sniveling little man (no matter which actor of choice portrayed him) with a self-righteous piety that lasts only until his benefactress is conjured up by himself or another.

We start out believing Jane created him solely for our enjoy enjoyment, comic relief if you will. But his connection to Darcy is ingeniously interwoven through Lizzy’s best friend, married to Mr. Collins, at Rosings where Darcy has easy access. Elizabeth needed the connection of Mr. Collins at Rosings to allow us to see Darcy in a different light. Well done, Jane!

Mr. Wickham

Ah! The infamous Mr. Wickham… When he appears, we are pulled into his ruse and we can now abhor Mr. Darcy as Elizabeth does. And Ms. Austen adds the twist that Lizzy may have found her match and we sit on the edge of our seats to see.

But Wickham is nothing without his connection to Mr. Darcy. We had to see Darcy’s egotism and snobbery before we could believe the terrible accusations. And it is Wickham’s character development into total degradation with Lydia that allows us to begin to see Darcy in a new light.

New characteristics he declares are only for Elizabeth’s sake, but allow us to begin a love affair with him after chapters and chapters of disliking him heartily.

I’ll declare that Jane Austen never got a note from her editor that her manuscript needed more conflict! She is the queen of conflict in P & P.

Mr. Darcy

We shall end with our hero, Mr. Darcy. I sometimes think technology has ruined literature more than enhanced it. I have opinions on each of the actors who have portrayed this hero but I must be sure to base my thoughts on Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy and not an actor.

Mr  Darcy - all five for Regency Reflections small
Picture courtesy of Jane Austen World Magazine

So when I sit down with the book, all faces disappear and I read and re-read the story always culminating with the picture perfect hero (my own imagination inspires the way he looks) in an amazing love story.

The changes that occur through the pages are all linked to the other male characters enough that we see Mr. Darcy become a new man, not only for the love of Elizabeth, but because he has seen his own shortcomings through the men with whom he interacts.

I look forward to hearing other readers’ perspectives on their favorite characters. I fancy there are as many opinions out there as there are readers!
pandPbookThis week we’re giving away a lovely copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book is hard cover with a ribbon book mark. The pages are rough cut to simulate the cut edges an original print would have had after binding. All comments on this week’s posts will be entered in the drawing. Must have a United States mailing address in order to win. Winner will be announced August 19, 2013.

Who Was Jane in Love With?

Jane_Austen_coloured_version
Jane Austen – Wikipedia

I recently read an older biography of Jane Austen entitled Presenting Miss Jane Austen. It was written by May Lamberton Becker and published in 1952. It was well-researched and endorsed by the Jane Austen Society.

What intrigued me the most, however, was a short section in Chapter Thirteen about one of the summer journeys Jane and her sister Cassandra took while they were living in Bath. One of the things Jane most looked forward to living in Bath was spending summers at the seashore. This was a new vacation destination for regency society, who had up to then been accustomed to going to the watering holes of Bath and Tunbridge Wells. But with the Prince Regent preferring to spend his time at the seashore in Brighton (which grew up around the original settlement of Brighthelmstone), the Brits took to the sea.

Jane writes about this new mobilization in a satirical way in one of her unfinished novels Sanditon, in which a resort town is being constructed around a traditional fishing village. You can see her humor in the town’s name which sounds suspiciously like “Sand Town.”

It was on one of these summer jaunts that Jane and her sister met a young clergyman at one of their stops. Perhaps it was in Devonshire, the author speculates. This clergyman was visiting his brother, a doctor. Her sister Cassandra is quoted in one of her letters as saying he was “one of the most charming persons she had ever known.” When they continued their journey, this gentleman asked permission to join them farther ahead in another town. According to the author, permission was given, which in these more formal times, meant a tacit agreement of a serious intention. When the sisters arrived at the town, Jane received a letter announcing his death.

Fast forward to more recent times when a literary biographer, Dr. Andrew Norman, has written a book called Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love (2009). He claims the identity of this mysterious gentleman is the clergyman Dr. Samuel Blackall, the brother of Dr. John Blackall, a physician. It seems Jane met him years earlier in 1798, when the two were guests of mutual friends, the Lefroys (one of whom, Tom Lefroy, is depicted as Jane Austen’s love in the movie In Becoming Jane).

Four years later they seem to have met again on the southern coast of England in the town of Totnes in Devon. Norman says she was visiting this town with her parents and met and fell in love with a clergyman who was visiting his physician brother who worked there.

Until then no one knew the name of this mysterious clergyman. But Norman searched the town records until uncovering the name of one physician, a Dr. John Blackall. He put two and two together and concluded that this is the same family Jane had met earlier at the Lefroys.

Very few of Jane’s letters survive from the years directly after this meeting, between 1801-1804.  Norman says that Blackall did not die but married someone else in 1813.

So, who knows what really happened. I prefer the first biographer’s conclusion, that Jane and this young clergyman did meet and fall in love and then he died prematurely. Jane loved him to her dying day, and her feelings are reflected in that famous quote from her novel Persuasion in which she debates who loves longest, men or women: “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”

What do you think?

Old Lovers, Make-Me-Love-You Heroes, and Marriages of Convenience

Vanessa here, opining for love.

I found a bit of time to read this weekend. For me, that would be a Regency novel. Obvious huh. As I looked at my two-decade-old collection, I started thinking about the types of plots I really love. Three stood out: Old Lovers, Make-Me-Love-You Heroes, and Marriages of Convenience.

Old Lovers

While I enjoy the whole “find a stranger/ love a stranger” aspect of most novels, the Old Lovers: loved once, love lost, love regained, really appeals to me. I recently finished Flight of Fancy, and the richness of the history between Cassandra Bainbridge and the Earl of Whittaker makes the story. It adds a subtle tension through the whole book, causing even mundane actions like Whitaker walking away from Cassandra to contemplate banging his head against the window in frustration, sexy.  I wouldn’t feel his pain, if I didn’t know how long he’s loved her and his confusion of how to win her back. I wouldn’t sigh as I see Cassandra noticing Whittaker leaning against the window and noting he’s not gangly any more but well-set, all man now. Hubba Hubba.

And I’ll say it.  You can’t get away with “Lessman” like passion starting on page 1 with strangers, unless of course, this is a bodice ripper Regency, but we don’t write that here.  🙂

On my radar to read, Mary Moore’s Beauty in Disguise.  Seems that old lovers, Lady Katryn and Lord Dalton have a story to tell in the woods.

The Make-Me-Love-You Hero

What is a make-me-love you hero?  This is an intelligent swarthy hero with a smidge of alpha-male arrogance. I know what you’re saying. “Arrogance, really Vanessa. I don’t want to read about a stuck-up hero. ”

Let me explain. Yes, a touch of arrogance is a requirement. It causes him to be deluded into believing he alone can save the heroine from all her woes. This adds to his fall or black moment.  It changes him forever. It will make his “somewhat loose bond to God” stronger, more personal, more real.

Oh, he must also be smothered in a big dollop of humor, particularly, self-deprecating humor.  It’s a rare combination like a handcrafted tea, but when you find him, you’ll drink him in, reading him over and over again.

And it goes without saying, he must be romantic. I need him to whisk me off my feet and carry me to safety after he bests the footpads. He should whisper sweet Latin or poetry or verses penned by Solomon in my ear to soothe my nerves.  Then at the right moment, his rough knuckles will traverse my jaw, tipping my chin to the right angle to kiss me ’til I nearly faint. Or at least he’d want to but his gentlemanly manners prevented it.

Who are these men? You’ve met them: Mr. Knightly (though he needs more humor) of Emma, Mr. Darcy (after he falls for Elizabeth) of Pride and Prejudice, Dominick Cherrett (from start to finish) of Lady in the Mist, Adam Drake of A Proper Marriage(Zebra-Traditional Regency), and  Justain Delveaux of Madeline’s Protector (Ok, you’ll get to meet him in April).  There are so many more that I can’t do this post justice.

Sigh, sorry I was in my happy place thinking of these heroes, back to Regency Reflections. P.S. please comment with more Make-Me-Love-You Regency heroes. I need to add to my bucket list.

On my Radar: Major Gerrit Hawkes of the Rogue’s Redemption. I hear he’s a naughty guy turned good by the love of a good woman and a good God.

Marriage of Convenience

As I said before finding love with a stranger can be stirring. Nonetheless, having to marry said stranger before you knew you loved him is positively fascinating. The idea of marrying a stranger is probably making you cringe. This complete loss of control in a matter of the heart would lead to many hours of prayer and/or counseling. Yet, did you know that the average divorce rate of arranged marriages is 6%1?  Did you know the average divorce rate amongst Christians (those who regularly attend church) is 38%, 60% for Christians who don’t attend church regularly 2. So let’s not scoff at these marriages based upon factors other than love.

Let Me Explain What a (Regency) Marriage of Convenience is and What it is Not.

A marriage of convenience is a real marriage, not a fake one. It must be officiated like every other marriage, with licenses, banns, etc. In Regency times, these were marriages for life. There is no “let’s get married” for a few years and then divorce. As a matter of fact, there is practically no divorce. Unless the husband continually cheated with the wife’s sister to the point the wife could not forgive him and was constantly reminded of the infidelity, Parliament saw no reason to grant a divorce. Thus, divorces were extremely rare in England since it had to be sanctioned by Parliament.

There was such a thing as a Church Divorce. This was not a legal divorce but a separation ordained by the church. This did not dissolve the marriage or allow someone to marry another. It was just a civilized way to separate.  Women needed to be particularly careful in this situation. The husband could keep custody of the children, as it was his right to decide where the minors would live.  He could prevent her from ever seeing them. Under a Church Divorce, the husband could do the bare minimum to provide for the wife. Again not a good situation for the wife.

A marriage of convenience did not have to involve a compromised party. It might just be convenient. I truly love, when a hero accidentally or purposely compromises the heroine and is now forced to save her (and his) honor(s) and must marry the heroine. Yet, this is just one contrivance. They may decide to marry to fulfill the requirements for an inheritance, to join lands, to protect the heroine, a parent’s dying wish, or an overly complex and contrived plot.  Many reasons, just not for love.

A marriage of convenience does not mean no nookie. This was a real marriage with a marriage bed. As Hebrews 13:4 says, “The Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.”  So if the parties are inclined or they needed an heir…. Well, you get the picture.

Alas, most of my favorite Marriage of Convenience stories are found in the old  traditional Regencies (Inspy’s we need more of these): The earl and countess of Sanborn in the Perfect Mistress (Bantam), the  earl and countess Faulconer of A Convenient Marriage (Zebra), the earl and countess of Slenford of The Earl’s Mistaken Bride (Love Inspired).

On my radar, Marriage of Inconvenience by Cheryl Bolen.  Is the practical marriage of the Earl and Countess of Ansley doomed or just beginning? I’m going to have to find out.

References

  1. UNICEF, Human Rights Council, ABC News, 8/12/2012
  2. Bradley R.E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites …and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), p. 133.

“How to Maintain a Flourishing Husband”

When I was about to be married, the women of my church threw me a shower, at which each of them gave me a favorite recipe to put in a cookbook for our new home. And though I still use Marion’s directions for teriyaki chicken, and though Sandy’s roasted veggies are still a favorite at our house, the real treasure in that cookbook isn’t the recipes. It’s the marriage advice each woman wrote down alongside her recipe.

Since this June has been all about marriage here at Regency Reflections, I thought I’d pass on the best of that advice – the advice that’s proved the most true in this first decade of my marriage. And since it comes from a woman who’s currently in the middle of her fourth decade of marriage – my mom, Betsy Barber – you can trust that it has more wisdom than anything I could come up with out of my short experience.

So, here they are, the words I see every time I turn to my mother’s recipe for the perfect pie crust:

 For those of you who haven’t had thirty years practice interpreting my mom’s handwriting, here’s what it says:

1. Constant prayer

2. Frequent, joyful sex

3. Regular time spent together

4. Continual forgiveness, continual repentance.

5. Conscious support of his career and hobbies

6. Encourage 10X more often than any critique.

And there at the bottom, added in after the original composition, is my favorite part: “Remember – if it’s good for Adam, it is good for you.”

That’s the part that I hadn’t read anywhere else in my marriage prep, and it’s the part I still wish more people talked about when they talk to married couples: since you’re one flesh, what’s good for one of you – what builds one up, what encourages one, what heartens one – benefits the other. Anything that helps my husband helps me. If something makes him a better Christian, if anything gives him joy, if anything delights his heart, it’s to my benefit that he has it, because it means I’ll be married to a better, happier, godlier man.

And the same is true the other way around. If something encourages me, if something builds me up, it’s to Adam’s benefit to see that I get it, because then he enjoys a marriage to a happier, healthier, godlier wife.

I could go on about the other points on that list, but this blog entry is supposed to be kept at a reasonable length. Suffice it to say: all the points on that list are good . . . especially the second one. 😉

Question for You:

What’s your best piece of advice for a new bride?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

An Alternative Elopement

Wanting to spare the heroine from an arranged marriage to an ogre, the hero suggests that he marries her and they elope. The heroine agrees, since she has had a tendre for the hero since she was a schoolgirl. Unfortunately, the 1754 Hardwick Marriage Act has stiffened the laws of marriage. The heroine hasn’t yet reached her majority and they can’t take the time to obtain a special license in London. Waiting for the banns to be called is out of the question, as that will take three weeks and the parents and ogre suitor will catch up with them long before then, even if they can obtain parental permission for the under age—under twenty-one—heroine. Their only alternative is to elope to Gretna Green in Scotland.

Unfortunately again, Scotland is close to four hundred miles away. They must hire a post chase or go on horseback and, because the journey will likely take more than a week to accomplish, they will have to stay overnight before they are married, unacceptable to these two proper—other than eloping—young people. The situation appears hopeless.

Except it isn’t. The hero has some friends amongst the fishermen who have told him about carrying an eloping couple to an alternative marriage location.

Eloping in Style

In approximately fifteen hours of sailing,
the eloping couple can reach one of the Channel Islands, mainly the Island of Guernsey. Evidence presents us with the knowledge that boats waited at Southampton, Hampshire, to carry eloping couples across the channel. Logic says Plymouth, Falmouth, and a few other southern ports just might have provided the same service.

Guernsey is closer to France than England. Although it belongs to England, many of the laws differ from those of England. The marriage laws are one of those even today.

So many couples eloped to Guernsey that tracking the history of residents of the island has proven difficult, for distinguishing those who simply arrived in St. Peter Port to get married in haste, from those who lived on the island and married in the same parish, isn’t easy two hundred years later. Genealogists have focused on whether or not couples later baptized their children in that same parish in order to trace ancestry to Guernsey.

Nowadays, one does not need a license to marry in a Church of England ceremony on Guernsey. One does need a license for a civil ceremony on Guernsey.

So if your couple finds themselves hundreds of miles from Gretna Green, they can hop onto a fishing boat, or perhaps the hero’s yacht, and sail across the Narrow Sea to a channel island. First, however, he might wish to ensure that the heroine doesn’t get seasick on the way.

Laurie Alice Eakes

On Courtship

Authoress Amelia Opie

Whoever thinks romance and love matches didn’t exist before the 20th century ignores a lot of evidence to the contrary. If women of all strata of society from seamstresses to young ladies of the ton read novels which featured heroines pitted against alluring yet somewhat menacing men, where virtue and love triumphed in the end, this means they must have had a desire for romance. They not only took to reading but to writing novels themselves. Selina Davenport’s 1824 novel Preference, is a typical romance with a properly happy ending. She wrote 11 novels between 1814-1832. Other female authors of the period besides Jane Austen who wrote about love triumphing were Amelia Opie, Maria Edgeworth, and sisters Anna Maria and Jane Porter.

The evangelical writer Hannah More wrote, “Is a woman in low spirits? Let her console herself by writing a novel. Is she ill? Bored? Unhappily situated? Let her pour it all out into a novel.”* Do I detect a little sarcasm?

 

Almack's

Despite a young woman’s yearnings for love and romance, the regency period was governed by rules of etiquette. Numerous books were written to young men and women on the subject of how to behave in public—especially with the opposite sex. After the licentiousness of the Georgian era, the Regency period saw a rise of Evangelicalism, which stressed that women were the arbiters of morality, and it was part of their duty to make sure they didn’t tempt men, or fall victims to men’s baser instincts. Whereas in high society it was common for a man to have a mistress, an unmarried young lady must keep herself chaste and above any appearance of misbehavior. On the Marriage Mart, a woman’s purity was her highest asset.

For this reason courtship for a young lady meant being chaperoned whenever she went out (and, of course, never receiving a gentleman caller on her own). A gentleman had to ask for an introduction to meet a young lady he was interested in. After her official coming out into society, a young lady enjoyed the grown-up entertainments of balls, assemblies, concerts and other musical events, all to see and be seen. But everything was done in public. A young lady could never be alone with a young man who was not a family member or otherwise closely associated with the family.

Although parents desired a “suitable match” for their children, this did not mean strictly arranged marriages—for the most part. There is ample evidence in novels and correspondence of marriages based on love and mutual respect.

Princess and Prince at the opera National Portrait Gallery London

The most important love match of the era was that of the Prince Regent’s daughter Charlotte to a minor German prince, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Even though her father and the British government had been negotiating her marriage to Prince William of Orange (the future king of the Netherlands), Princess Charlotte met young Leopold in the Czar’s entourage when the czar and his sister came to London during the summer of 1814. Eventually, the princess broke off her official engagement to the Dutch royal prince, causing all kinds of diplomatic furor and married her German prince on May 2, 1816, to the enthusiasm of the British people. They understood a love match. From all accounts it was a happy—though brief—marriage, since she died shortly after giving birth to their first child after only a year of marital bliss.

Matchmaking as shown in Emma also shows that romance was alive and well in the regency era. Jane Austen wrote, “Anything is to be preferred or endured, rather than marrying without Affection.”

Vauxhall Gardens

 

 

* Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, William Morrow and Co., 1986, New York