Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Blog tour: Five Daughters out at Once by Jayne Bamber - with giveaway!


Hello Dear Janeites, it is a pleasure to be back at Laughing with Lizzie to share more details of my new release, Five Daughters Out At Once.

Available on Kindle April 7th

The novel centers around the premise of the Bennet sisters re-entering society (and encountering heroes from across Austen’s other works!) after mourning the loss of first their father and then their mother, with Lady Catherine de Bourgh as their unlikely champion and ally against Mr. Collins. Things begin with a shaky start; we discover that the Bennet sisters have not been idly awaiting some rescue, but making plans of their own – which leads me to today’s excerpt….


 

***

The sight of Mr. Gardiner entering the room instantly put the young ladies at ease, for his jovial manners were tempered with a degree of solicitude and curiosity that gave Elizabeth some hope he would not dismiss her careful planning out of hand. “Well, Jane, Lizzy, Mary – good morning, Miss Lucas – what is all this about then? Your letter has given me no little concern. Have you heard from him, this Collins fellow?”

“Not yet, but we expect to presently,” Jane said with a placid smile.

Elizabeth added to this with a petulant grimace. “If he is at all like his sister, he may arrive without notice any day now – that is what I expect, sir.”

Mr. Gardiner nodded evenly. “I will confess, I had shared my poor sister’s hope that these Collinses were content enough with their own lot, that they would not disturb you.”

“That is what I had wished as well,” Elizabeth replied, quirking her eyebrow up with wry humor as she tried to dispel her own bitterness. “I hoped for the best, but have prepared for the worst.” The two ledgers, one blue and one red, sat before her on the desk, and she opened them both with triumphant pride. “Come and see, Uncle.”

Mary had checked the numbers meticulously the night before – she moved that way and began to show Mr. Gardiner her work. “I reviewed our father’s accounts going back to 1806, here in the blue ledger.  From there, we simply duplicated all the monthly expenses, as if we had continued to live the same, these past two years, as we ever had before – a slight reduction was logical, with fewer… fewer of us.”

Jane joined them at the other side of the desk. “Here, in the red book, we have recorded how we have actually lived these two years – much more frugal, you see. We have reduced the staff, limited unnecessary spending – and our income has increased, a little. Lizzy has seen to the tenants that were in arrears, and gotten them to pay some, if not all their rent, which Papa never paid much mind to. The harvest last year was far beyond what it had ever been,” Jane added, pointing to a sum that Elizabeth was particularly proud of.

“Well! Lizzy, I must venture a guess that you have been the mastermind behind all this?”

Though Lizzy sat in her father’s chair, looking and feeling every bit in command of the household, she had never been easy with taking all the credit of it. “No indeed – not entirely. Jane and Mary have helped a vast deal with the sums, and they have even taken in some mending and sewing to supplement our income – and we have all three taken on a pupil apiece for piano lessons.” Again Jane pointed out the corresponding columns representing the income from their other enterprises.

 Elizabeth could see that it pained him to consider his nieces’ labors. “You poor girls – having to run the estate is dreadful enough, but your other pursuits….”

Elizabeth held her chin high as she met his eye. “There are worse things than work – of all people I had hoped you would understand.”

“That is not what gives me pause.” Her uncle knit his brow, his eyes scanning the columns of sums in the two ledgers. “This is dangerous, girls. If you were found out….”

Jane and Mary both shifted uncomfortably and averted their gaze, but not Elizabeth. “How so, sir? We are not stealing, not really – not any more than we would be if there was only one ledger. It can make no difference to Mr. Collins, if and when he darkens our doorstep, whether we have disbursed the income of this estate in the same fashion we have always done, or differently. Why should he feel entitled to the fruits of our thriftiness – of our labor – when he has not come to claim what is his? He could hardly expect us to set aside every spare shilling for his future – and hypothetical – usage. At any rate, I had always supposed, from the remarks I have heard Papa make, that none of the Collinses are entirely sensible. His sister certainly is not. It is likely that when the time comes for Mr. Collins to sit in this chair, he will simply accept what is written in the blue ledger and think no further than how fortunate he is to no longer be at the pulpit.”

Elizabeth had not meant to rail at her uncle as she had done; Charlotte was obliged to lay a palliative hand on her arm, and in doing so attracted her own share of Mr. Gardiner’s notice. “That is quite an assumption. Miss Lucas, what has been your role in this little enterprise? I should expect you to be the voice of reason in all this.”

Charlotte had always been the most pragmatic figure in Elizabeth’s life – she had neither the high spirits of Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia nor the serenity of Jane, neither Mr. Bennet’s excessive sardonic wit nor Mary’s somber want of mirth. But despite Charlotte’s steadiness, the events of the last two years had affected her just as much as the Bennet sisters. And she was not Mr. Gardiner’s niece – she looked up at him and smiled evenly. “I have helped them however I could.”

The flaring of his nostrils and clenching of his jaw betrayed Mr. Gardiner’s silent offense at what Charlotte had really meant. Elizabeth attempted to keep her own countenance neutral. She loved her uncle dearly, and in her heart she could not blame him for being so occupied in his own business matters – but she wished the same respect for what her own actions had been. “Sir, with Charlotte’s aid we have put by nearly three thousand pounds. She helped us send to auction a great many items of value that did not belong to the estate, and she has aided us in the safeguarding of these funds.”

“Has she? It did not occur to you to ask for my help?” The three sisters and their friend were silent a moment, holding a collective breath as Mr. Gardiner scowled at them each in turn.

Finally, Elizabeth squared her shoulders back and answered him. “It seemed expedient that we should pool our funds with Charlotte’s – we mean to open a school together at Lucas Lodge. Her uncle in Plymouth has been advising us on how to go about it.”

Some of her uncle’s vexation seemed dispelled, though his incredulity was not an improvement, in Elizabeth’s estimation. “A school!”

“It would be perfectly respectable,” Mary ventured, her hopeful eyes revealing how desperately she desired their uncle’s approval.

“And not at all dangerous.” Elizabeth could not help herself.

Jane looked between her two sisters, and then offered their uncle one of her most angelic smiles – the softening effect on him was instantaneous, as it ever had been. “You have been so busy – every time our aunt has written, she has indicated you are very often out of town or abroad, working so hard already. We did not wish to add to your burdens.”

“I was occupied in expanding my business so that I could afford to take you all in,” Mr. Gardiner replied. “I have worked tirelessly this past year, doing everything I could to increase my income enough to allow me to support you all.”

“And so have we,” Elizabeth cried. “We did not know of your plan, sir, and were obliged to form one of our own.”

“I did not wish to give you poor girls any false hope – I meant to tell you of my intentions once they became possibilities, you see.”

“We, too, wished to present a fait accompli. And we nearly have done – we have the funds we need, at least. It is no small accomplishment, Uncle.”

“Yes, well, Lizzy, perhaps you are to be commended for your efforts,” he conceded.

“That is all I ask, sir. Well, not all – but if you are still willing to offer any assistance, let it be for Kitty and Lydia. We have all the funds we need, to start our school, and an extra thousand to add to the five from Mamma. Kitty and Lydia might share the sum, and the interest of it might go toward their support, if they were to live with you in London.”

“They would not like our plan,” Mary added. “We have agreed they deserve a better fate, anyhow – and I cannot imagine them as teachers.”

“And as they are the youngest and prettiest of us – and with three thousand apiece – they stand the best chance of marrying well,” Jane said, just the barest trace of regret on her countenance.

“You would forfeit your share of your mother’s portion? This is madness, girls,” their uncle cried, throwing up his hands in frustration. “Charlotte Lucas, I would have expected better from you. When my sister, rest her soul, was taken from us, I asked you to look after my nieces while I was to be away so often.”

The three sisters all looked at Charlotte, who still appeared the most tranquil of them all. “And so I have, sir. You said nothing of the future you had in mind for them – I have only helped them conceive of a different one.”

“You have helped yourself to their money!”

“That is hardly fair, Uncle!” Elizabeth was not surprised that Charlotte had agreed to help them; she would have done so without anyone asking it of her, and Elizabeth took her friend by the hand, more for her own equanimity than Charlotte’s.  “She has offered us some modicum of security and stability, when all we have had these two years is uncertainty. Even before – before the fire, you know how it was at Longbourn. Mamma spoke often and without restraint of how we would someday be turned out of the house by a stranger, left to starve in the hedgerows! Knowing that we should all have a roof over our head at Lucas Lodge someday, when we are turned out of Longbourn, which may in fact be any day now….”

Mr. Gardiner held up a hand to silence her. “I understand you perfectly, my dear. And I do commend your efforts, but such drastic measures are quite unnecessary. Notwithstanding your… unorthodox methods of fundraising, which I think we ought to agree to hush up, if we possibly can – perhaps we had better let the matter rest. I shall take you all to London with me.”

Mary had picked up the bundle of papers that constituted their emergency plan, and the diary in which Charlotte had transcribed the details more coherently; she clutched them both to her chest, her eyes beginning to glisten with tears. Out of all four of them, Mary had wanted this the most. “Please, Uncle. At least consider our plan.”

“I believe it is a sound one,” Jane said softly. “We have put considerable thought into it.”

Mr. Gardiner flicked his gaze back to Elizabeth, who had grown so tense that every muscle in her body ached. He did not look angry, only terribly sad; Elizabeth realized that her own sense of frustration was much the same. She was so very tired of struggling, and offered her uncle a thin smile. He nodded with an almost imperceptible upturning of his lips. “Very well, I shall hear you. Miss Lucas, would you allow me a few minutes to speak privately with my nieces?”

Elizabeth did not release her grip on Charlotte’s hand, but Charlotte withdrew with a little shake of her head. “I shall step out into the garden.” Charlotte opened the door to depart the study, and Kitty and Lydia, crouched on the other side of it, tumbled into the room in such a commotion that only Elizabeth noticed the other great shock that moment held – out of the wide front window she spied a very grand carriage approaching the house.


Rafflecopter giveaway!


Five Daughters Out at Once: A Pride & Prejudice Variation - Kindle edition by Bamber, Jayne. Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Jayne Bamber – Audio Books, Best Sellers, Author Bio | Audible.com


Biography

Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.

Thank you so much for stopping by Jayne! Love the sound of the new book. Wishing you all the best! 




1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing an excerpt of the book. I am just a bit puzzled by Mr Gardiner's reaction to their plan.I may have to read more about him and his ideas in the book to understand him. Now I am curious who is in this grand carriage...

    ReplyDelete

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