At last, Lydia Bennet's Story is now in stock and can be ordered from Amazon.com in the States, as well as here in the UK, France and Germany. The book may also be ordered from all good bookshops.
Thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to write to me about my book - I've stolen some of Lydia's blog space to talk a little about her story. The book starts in April, at a point when Lydia is enjoying the attentions of the regiment who are stationed in the nearby town of Meryton. Her sister Lizzy is away visiting Charlotte Collins and Jane has gone to stay with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, so Lydia is making the most of the situation.
Here is Chapter One
The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family. Lydia Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, not only believed that her mama and papa had most likely stolen her from noble parents, but also considered it a small miracle that they could have produced between them her own fair self and four comely girls, Jane, Lizzy, Mary and Kitty, though to tell the truth, she felt herself most blessed in looks. Lydia’s greatest desire in life was to be married before any of her sisters but a lack of marriageable beau in the county and her papa’s reluctance to accompany her to as many Assembly Balls as she wished, had thwarted her efforts thus far.
The youngest Longbourn ladies, Lydia and Kitty, were employed in preparations for a trip out into the nearby town of Meryton. Their bedchamber was strewn with cambrics, muslins and ribbons; all cast aside for want of something better. Slippers and shoes, sashes and shawls, spilled over the bed and onto the floor. Feathers, fans and frills, flowed from open drawers like a fountain cascade. Amongst the spoils, Kitty reclined against propped, plump cushions to regard her sibling, one arm resting behind her head whilst the other held back the heavy bed drapes, so as not to obscure her view. Lydia sat before the glass on her dressing table, scrutinising her reflection as she put the last touches to her toilette. She dusted a little powder over her full, rosy cheeks and twisted the dark curls on her forehead with a finger, patting them into place until she was satisfied with her appearance.
“Is it not a face designed for love?” she asked Kitty with a chuckle, practising several expressions she thought might stand her in good stead with the officers or at the very least amuse her sister for five minutes. She was perfecting what she could only describe as a passion promoter to great comic effect, pouting her generous mouth and flashing her wide, black eyes, with slow sweeps of her lashes, which had Kitty reeling on the bed with laughter. “No doubt, I shall capture Mr Denny’s heart once and for all!”
“I do not think making faces at Denny will make one jot of difference to his regard for you,” Kitty declared, spying a bauble amongst the strewn bedclothes and sitting up to clasp the necklace about her throat. “But in any case, is it wise to spend so much time on a young man who has such a glad eye? I should have thought you would have learned your lesson by now!”
Kitty was the sister with whom Lydia shared all her fears and secrets, cares and woes, secure in the knowledge that she was acquainted with as many of Kitty’s confidences, as her sister was of her own. Lydia would never divulge what followed when Charles Palmer detained Kitty in the conservatory when he proposed to show her the illuminations, nor disclose intelligence of the letters that passed between them afterwards. Their confidence was absolute.
“I do hope Denny will like my new hairstyle,” Lydia went on, tying a length of coral silk around her tresses and ignoring her sister’s comments. “I daresay he will, he is always very attentive to every little thing. Why, I only changed the ribbons on my straw bonnet from white to coquelicot last Sunday and he had noticed before the first hymn was sung in church. Oh, Denny, he is so very sweet, though perhaps he is not quite so gallant as Mr Wickham, whose compliments are without doubt the most accomplished. I wonder what he will have to say. Do you think Mr Wickham will notice my hair?”
Kitty did not think Lydia really expected an answer to her question but ventured to comment on the fact that Mr Wickham, one of the most good-looking officers of their acquaintance, might have his attentions engaged elsewhere. “I do not think Mr Wickham’s notice extends much beyond that of his present interest in Miss Mary King. I hate to disappoint you, Lydia, but quite frankly you could have Jane’s best bonnet on your head and he would not notice you! Pen Harrington believes he is quite in love. ”
“Well, I am not convinced he is in love with Mary King,” said Lydia, liberally sprinkling Steele’s lavender water on her wrists, “but with her ten thousand pounds! Money will certainly give a girl all the charm she needs to attract any suitor. If you and I had half so much, do you think we should still be single? ”
“Well, be that as it may, whatever Mr Wickham’s true feelings are on the matter, I declare that I shall never forgive him for his conduct to our sister. I think he used our Lizzy very ill,” Kitty cried, as she drew a white chip bonnet from its pink and white striped box and pulled it on over her ebony locks. “No wonder Lizzy went off to Hunsford to visit Charlotte Collins. I think Mr Wickham quite broke her heart.”
“Mr Wickham is a very amiable, but wicked man and if he were not so charming or so handsome, I swear I would snub him forever,” Lydia replied.
She stood up to smooth her muslin gown over her hips, pulling it down as hard as she could and sighing at its length in despair. Jane, the eldest of the Bennet daughters was a little shorter than herself, Lydia reflected, tugging at her cast off gown. Indeed, none of her sisters were as tall. And whilst she enjoyed her superior height, she knew that nobody else had to suffer the indignity of wearing clothes that were too small. If only she could persuade her papa that she really needed a new dress for herself alone she knew she would be the happiest girl alive. But that was impossible. There was never enough money and if there was any left over for the occasional luxury, as the youngest of five daughters, Lydia knew she would be the last to feel its effects. Tacking on another length of fabric from the workbox was the only answer but there just wasn’t time for that now. If they were not careful they would be late and miss all the fun.
“If I know Lizzy, she will not be downhearted for long and her letters from Hunsford parsonage are cheerful enough,” Lydia added, pinching her cheeks between thumbs and forefingers for added bloom. “She expresses no feelings of regret and certainly there is no mention of moping for Mr Wickham, though how she can possibly be having fun with our dreary cousin Collins, is quite beyond me. Poor Charlotte! I know you and I used to joke about the ‘Lovebirds of Longbourn’ but now she is married I cannot help but feel sorry for her. Can you imagine having to live with William Collins for the rest of your life? Well, at least Lizzy managed to avoid that, although I am not sure our mother will ever completely forgive her for refusing to marry him.”
“Even sister Mary was not keen on the idea of becoming a parson’s wife, despite her penchant for bible study and religious tracts,” added Kitty, tying blue ribbons under her chin. “Although as I recall, if pressed she might have consented to the match.”
“But Mr Collins never asked her!” Lydia giggled. She adjusted her bonnet, setting it a jaunty angle before winking at her sister. “To be married with a house of my own is my ambition, I admit, but I declare I could never love a clergyman, not in a million years. Come Kitty,” Lydia urged, picking up her reticule with one hand and taking her sister’s arm with the other, “let us make haste. If we delay much longer, the morning will be gone and we will miss all the gossip!
Such a pretty scene met Lydia’s eyes on their arrival in town that she didn’t know which way to look; at the ravishing bonnets in straw and silk in the milliner’s bow-fronted windows or at the figured muslins, crêpes and linens, ruched and draped across the width and length of the tall windows of the mercer’s warehouse. Vying for her attention was a highway teeming with those captivating visions in scarlet, officers everywhere, strutting the pavements and swaggering in step. A whole regiment of soldiers had arrived in Meryton several months ago, along with the changeable autumn winds, blowing every maiden’s saucy kisses like copper leaves down upon their handsome heads. Lydia and Kitty had been far from disappointed when line upon line of handsome soldiers and debonair officers had come parading along the High Street, a blaze of scarlet and gleaming gold buttons, laden with muskets and swords, clanking in rhythm as they marched. It had not been very long before both girls had made firm friends with all the officers, helped along by the introductions from their Aunt and Uncle Phillips who lived in the town.
Harriet Forster, the Colonel’s wife, was fast becoming Lydia’s most particular friend and it was to her elegant lodgings that the Bennet sisters now hastened on this spring morning. As was expected, they found her in good company. Penelope Harrington and Harriet’s sister, Isabella Fitzalan, were regaling Harriet with the latest news. The three ladies were most elegantly dressed to Lydia’s mind; Harriet in a white muslin, Penelope in blue with lace let into the sleeves and Isabella in lilac, to match the blossoms on the trees outside. Lydia thought Miss Fitzalan was elegance personified, with her golden curls dressed just like the portrait of Madame Recamier she had seen in her mother’s monthly periodical.
“I am so glad you have arrived at last, Lydia and Kitty,” Harriet exclaimed, as she rang the bell for tea, “for I have some news which cannot wait to be told. You will never guess what has happened!”
The narrative is interspersed with Lydia's diary entries; I really wanted Lydia's voice and her thoughts and feelings to be heard. Despite her bravado and flirtatious ways, she is very naive and easily gets the 'wrong end of the stick', so to speak! Sometimes, it was necessary to show that her interpretation of events was not exactly what was really happening and her diary gave me an opportunity to illustrate this.
Although Pride and Prejudice wasn't published until 1813, Jane Austen originally started writing this novel as 'First Impressions' at a much earlier date (1796-7). Because I wanted to feature the Prince Regent and Maria Fitzherbert and show Brighton at its height of popularity, I decided to base my novel on an 1801-2/3 calendar. This also fitted in historically because we know there were military camps in Brighton in those early years.
For the purposes of her wonderful book, Jane Austen quite rightly paints Lydia in a less than flattering light, but for the purposes of mine, I hope I have managed to give her a sympathetic hearing, which I believe she deserves, despite her penchant for silliness and folly. Her heart rules her head, her tongue has a habit of running away with her and she acts without thinking but I confess, I could not resist her and have grown to be very fond of Lydia for all her faults.
Lydia’s Story was written purely for fun and my pleasure and executed out of love and admiration for the greatest of authors, Jane Austen. I truly hope that it gives some enjoyment and maybe (as Lydia would desire) makes you giggle once or twice.