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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Susan Adriani: Pride and Prejudice, Wickham and Georgiana

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Susan Adriani and her Pride and Prejudice retelling, The Truth About Mr. Darcy. Here she tells us about her love of Pride and Prejudice, our favorite villain, George Wickham, and the world that Georgiana inhabited.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of The Truth About Mr. Darcy which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Susan will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of the selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Susan selected is Amy! Thanks to all for coming over.

Welcome Susan!

Why Pride and Prejudice?

I fell in love with the characters of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice via the BBC version of the 1995 movie, directed by Andrew Davies. The next day I went out, bought the book, and couldn't put it down.

While all of the characters in Jane Austen's novels are colorful and rich in detail and personality, there was just something about Elizabeth Bennet that captivated me from the start. Unlike Mr. Darcy, whose attraction began with her fine eyes and pleasing figure, my admiration was all for her wit, intelligence, and tenacity and individuality during a time when society demanded so much from women, while allowing them very little freedom to do much of anything.

Her circumstances were not ideal—one of five sisters with no dowry to speak of, an idle father, and a silly mother, yet she did not show resentment for her situation. She loved her sisters—even the three silliest ones—and managed to find amusement wherever she went. The fact that Mr. Darcy fell in love with her in spite of her unsuitable situation and connections, really sealed the deal for me.

George Wickham—what a rake!
I think we can all agree that George Wickham is a bit of a debauched rake, not to mention an opportunist, in gentleman's clothing or, in the case of Pride and Prejudice, regimentals. He manages to deceive Elizabeth Bennet, her family, friends, and the entire village of Meryton before he exposes his true nature by abandoning his post, defaulting on a debt of honor, and fleeing Brighton the following summer, all with Lydia Bennet in tow.

In my story, The Truth About Mr. Darcy, I'm afraid he's quite a bit worse. He is more vindictive, more debauched in his actions, and not at all inclined to mask his contempt for Darcy once he discovers his former benefactor's attraction to Elizabeth, which happens quite early in my book.
I certainly didn't set out to make Wickham into more of a villain than Jane Austen did in Pride and Prejudice, but he definitely ended up that way, and I blame it solely on him! While writing The Truth About Mr. Darcy, I found myself struggling with Wickham's character. Every single time I attempted to write him, he just wanted to show me a more calculating and vindictive persona. I spent so much time rewriting his scenes and trying to force him into a milder mold than he apparently wanted, until, finally, it became too much and I let him have his way.

Georgiana Darcy, and keeping her secret safe
We know that Mr. Darcy did everything in his power to keep his sister Georgiana's almost-elopement a secret from the world. Wouldn't you if your innocent younger sister was being sweet-talked by a man like George Wickham? To many of us, it may not appear as if Georgiana Darcy had done anything wrong; she didn't, after all, go through with the elopement, and willingly confessed all to her brother, who then confronted Wickham and ordered him to leave Ramsgate immediately. Case dismissed.

But it wasn't quite so simple back then. Georgiana was fifteen at the time, no more than a girl. Today, her actions would have been blamed on youthful indiscretion. In the regency period, however, girls were the sole preservers of their fragile reputations, and were held to a strict code of conduct—no intimate touching, no private conduct with a gentleman, only innocent conversation, and no letter writing, or gifts. Often their reputations were pretty much all they had, and a lack of restraint on the lady's part was considered scandalous. If the lady in question was raised in the bosom of a prominent, respectable, wealthy family like the Darcys, the consequences of ignoring the constraints placed upon her by society would be even more severe, in a social sense.

Darcy, as we know, was very concerned about the status of his family, and did not consider Elizabeth Bennet and her family's position in society equal to his own, even though her family was the principle family in the village—and neither did his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. If Georgiana's indiscretion got out, the status of the Darcys, Fitzwilliams, and de Bourghs would have lessened considerably in the eyes of London's elite. His sister's disgrace (yes, it would have been considered just that) would have affected Darcy's chances of making a good match, as well as her own. While it is unfair to place the blame solely upon Georgiana, society at the time would have done precisely that and more. There was every possibility a young lady and her family would have been ostracized and shunned. In any case, their respectability as a whole would have been called into question, and I'm sure you can perfectly imagine what Lady Catherine would have had to say on that subject.

I've included an excerpt from my book The Truth About Mr. Darcy, where Georgiana reveals her involvement with George Wickham to Elizabeth. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed being here today. Sincere, heartfelt thanks to Linda Banche for having me as her guest on Historical Hussies. Thank you so much—it was a genuine pleasure!

You're very welcome, Susan.


“George?” Elizabeth inquired with a frown. “Is that the name of the young man you knew?”

“Yes,” she said, blushing, “George Wickham. He was the son of my father’s steward. He and Fitzwilliam were always very close when they were younger. They attended Cambridge together but did not continue their acquaintance after that. I now suspect it was because of George’s nefarious habits.”

Elizabeth paled and felt as though she would be sick. “George Wickham!” she gasped. No wonder Fitzwilliam was so affected by his presence in Hertfordshire! It is a wonder he did not kill him that day in Meryton!

Georgiana hesitated. “Do you know of him, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth slowly nodded, too horrified to speak.

“I was at Ramsgate for the summer with my companion, Mrs. Younge, in whose character my brother and I were both deceived,” Georgiana explained. “Fitzwilliam surprised me the day before I was to leave for Gretna Green with George. He was furious and demanded I end my engagement. I could not grieve him, Elizabeth. Fitzwilliam has raised me alone since I was a little girl. It was not long until George’s true nature revealed itself to me in any case. I am truly ashamed.”

“No. You have no reason to feel ashamed, Georgiana. You were very young at the time. Mr. Wickham preyed upon your innocence and your trusting nature. You cannot be held accountable for what he tried to do. Believe me, I am well acquainted with Mr. Wickham and his… expectations of young ladies.” Georgiana was startled by the bitterness in her voice.

They spent the next half hour in earnest conversation about Mr. Wickham until it was time for them to part and dress for their evening at the theatre, each lady feeling a little easier for having confided in the other and feeling a genuine bond of sisterly friendship that would only continue to grow deeper with time.

About the Author--Susan Adriani
Susan Adriani has been a fan of Jane Austen's works and her beloved characters for as long as she can remember. In addition to writing, she is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. In 2007, after contemplating the unexplored possibilities in one of Miss Austen's books, Pride and Prejudice, she began to write her first story, The Truth About Mr. Darcy, formerly titled Affinity and Affection. With encouragement from fellow Austen enthusiasts, she continues and is currently at work on her second and third books. She lives with her husband and young daughter in Connecticut.

The Truth About Mr. Darcy by Susan Adriani
In this hot tale, Mr. Darcy confesses the truth about George Wickham right from the start, warning Elizabeth and the rest of Meryton about Wickham’s despicable character. Will his honesty change the way Elizabeth feels about him and his previous poor behavior? Will he still have to transform himself to win her love? And what will happen when scandal erupts?


sadriani said...

Shame on me - Elizabeth Bennet was one of five sisters. I meant to say she HAD four. Please forgive me!

- Susan

Linda Banche said...

OK, Susan, I edited the post.

Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, and the kind of heroine I like. While I like Mr. Darcy, too (who wouldn't *g*), I want my heroines to push the envelope. No women who cower before the powers that be. Elizabeth fits the bill.

sadriani said...

Linda, thank so much. I have to agree with you about Elizabeth Bennet. Her strength, intelligence and wit are what make her my favorite among Jane Austen's heroines. I've also always found it interesting that many of her most popular heroines seemed to share quite a few traits and preferences with our beloved author. For instance, Miss Austen, like Elizabeth Bennet, was said to have been a very great walker. ;)

Thank you again for editing my error, Linda. I will blame it on my lack of sleep, rather than my increasing age!


catslady said...

It's unusual I think that you saw the movie first and then read the book. I always do it the other way around lol.
I too love strong women in my reading. Isn't it such a shame that so many lives revolve around "what will other people think!"
I very much enjoyed your excerpt and it sounds like a lovely P&P adaptation!

Susan Adriani said...

catslady, I almost always read a book first and then go to see the movie (or not - so often the movies never measure up to my impression of my favorite books), but I did things backwards in this case. I had actually avoided Pride and Prejudice like the plague, and for no other reason than the title was just too much like Tolstoy's War and Peace. (I am not a fan of Tolstoy) It was my best friend who sat me down and forced me to see sense. I am indebted to her!

If you do happen to read my book, I hope you'll enjoy it very much. Thank you for leaving me a comment!


Chelsea B. said...

Oh, wow-- I know I've said it before, but I can't wait to read this! Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are my two all-time favorite characters, so I absolutely adore author's like you who keep them alive! :-)

Susan Adriani said...

Chelsea, it's so nice to see you again! (Are you following me, lol? Because I don't mind in the least!) You always have such lovely things to say to me about my writing. Thank you for that! I honestly hope you win one of my books. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!


Pam said...

I really like the style of Susan's writing. I think I'll enjoy delving deeper into the relationships of these familiar characters. This novel is on my to read list! I would love to see how she would portray Willoughby.

sadriani said...

Pam, I'm so pleased that my writing style appeals to you and that my book is on your "to read" list - thank you!


Susan Adriani said...

catslady, I usually do read the book first, then see the movie (or not, as they often tend to be a poor substitution and never live up to my expectations of the book). It's always a gamble when your favorite book is made into a movie. I loved Water for Elephants and have been looking forward to seeing the movie, but am a little nervous about it. Of course, my 94 year-old aunt saw it and told me I won't be disappointed. As a matter of fact, she's going again!

Thanks so much for leaving me a comment - I was so happy to hear you enjoyed my writing!


LaVerne Clark said...

Yippee!! I can finally leave a comment. Been trying since Blogger has been down. I REALLY want to be in to win this book - LOVE Darcy and especially Elizabeth. Against such strict times and customs, Elizabeth was strong and spoke her mind. She wouldn't be out of place in today's world would she?

Your story sounds fabulous, Susan!

Abby said...

sounds like an interesting book, never read the original , just saw the movie. I will have to take the time to read both.

Amy said...

I've got the original on my Kindle app, been reading it at lunch. Love the movie! The Truth is definitely on my tbr list! Thanks for sharing!

Susan Adriani said...

LaVerne, I love Elizabeth Bennet for the same reasons. I think she would have felt very much at home today, or at least I hope she would! Thanks so much - if you do happen to read my book, I hope you enjoy it!

Abby, I hope you will take the time to read both. Jane Austen is really a wonderful storyteller. My writing isn't quite the same as hers, but I hope you'll like it all the same!

Hi, Amy. I'm glad to learn you have my book on you tbr list. That's really wonderful news - thank you!

Good luck, and thank you so much for leaving me such nice comments!


Laura said...

I am glad I stopped by to read your blog! I am definately going to read the book!


sadriani said...

Laura, that's wonderful news, indeed! I'm so thrilled and hope you'll enjoy it - thank you!


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