The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen reimagines the life of England's most famous female author by asking: How would her life have changed if she had married and had a child? How would this thinking woman, and sensitive soul, have responded not to a ballroom flirtation but to a real relationship that developed over time? How would shouldering the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood have changed her as a person and a writer?
The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen is the only Austen—themed novel that delves deeply into the psyche of a woman falling in love—and the only novel to address what marriage in the early 1800s would have been like for a woman of intelligence and passion.
Using the Austen oeuvre as a foundation, this book takes the heroine out of her safe country villages and tosses her into a world that is far more complex and exciting. As the story develops, the protagonist becomes engaged in matters such as the slave trade; the advances that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution; the growing conflicts between science and religion; the antagonism between aristocrats and the rising mercantile class; and the horrifying impacts of the never—ending war with France on English citizens.
And all the while, she falls ever more in love with the man who introduces her to this bigger and more dangerous world.
Being a courtship novel, Volume I concludes with a happy ending; but it goes beyond a comedy of manners to touch deep, honest feelings between a woman and man. Volume I of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen sets up the complexity and contradictions of marriage that are addressed in the following volumes: the richness of a requited love set against the often cruel realities of life in the Regency age—for husband as well as wife.
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About the Author
Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people's lives and everything that makes them complete though fallible human beings. His fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.
As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has worked alongside some of the world's thought leaders on topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging subjects with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader.
Hemingway has published shorter nonfiction on topics including computer technology, medicine, and aviation, and he has written award-winning journalism.
The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen
Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates
Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld
What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg
Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz
The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus
Read an Excerpt
The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen
A Novel by a Gentleman Volume I
By Collins Hemingway
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Collins Hemingway
All rights reserved.
"At one time I believed that a ball was a magical place, where one could find true love and dance happily into the future," Jane said. "But that was when I was seventeen — not six and twenty."
She was about to expound on the point when a crash pulled her attention to the door. She turned to see young Mr. Ashton Dennis barreling into the Upper Rooms like a footman with too much luggage — except that his impedimenta consisted of two silver-coated attendants, a middle-aged couple, and the couple's adolescent daughter. Jane realized that Ashton must have entered at a full run and collided with the attendants, who had attached themselves to him in a futile effort to restrain his momentum, and together the men swept up the unsuspecting family like fish in a net in the congested area where the sedan chairs were being unloaded.
What followed was something like a three-step minuet: The girl, dressed sweetly in pink silk, curtsied to the other ball-goers in her bewilderment and then retreated to the rear; Ashton, straightening his coat, emerged with a smile from the sputtering entanglement of bodies; lastly, in a neat counterpoint, the ball's old and portly master of ceremonies, Mr. Shanking, halted Ashton with an elaborately carved wooden cane thrust forward in a fencing pose.
"I wonder, young sir," said Mr. Shanking, pointing down with his cane first to his own polished black shoes, with their diamond buckles, and then to Ashton's muddy Hessian boots, "why you did not bring in your steed, considering that the beast would be as well shod as the master?"
From all around came the titter of those awaiting the opening of the dance. Ashton was a tall, muscular young man dressed in yellow breeches, dark frock coat, light-colored waistcoat, and those muddy boots. He wore his own hair, whether because of the new fashion or unsuitable political views, it was impossible for Jane to know. Though of imposing size and a confident stance, he reddened and struggled to speak.
Mr. Shanking, looking more French than English in his traditional powdered wig and a florid velvet outfit with gold ruffles, cocked his head and surveyed the room to be sure that the attendees appreciated the skill with which he would now dispatch anyone who dared attend his ball unsuitably attired. The two youthful attendants approached to assist Mr. Shanking in escorting Ashton out.
Ashton glanced at his sister and the two Austen sisters as if possibly to call for assistance. Free now to register their astonishment, they snapped their fans open and hid behind them. Their reaction caused him to gather his determination. "M-my s-steed w-would m-make more entertaining company than m-most of the party here," he said. "Have my b-boots cleaned. Now."
"Riding boots are proper attire only for officers in uniform," Mr. Shanking averred.
"If the r-rules apply to the lay-abouts in the M-Militia," Ashton said, indicating the scarlet coats scattered about the room, "they apply to any gentleman."
"If you fail to remove yourself, sir, we shall be obliged to do it for you."
"If you are under the m-misapprehension that you will succeed — when I have sw-sworn my attendance to a lady, my sister — then b-by all means — have a try."
Mr. Shanking's two assistants discreetly stepped back; another, anticipating the outcome, had left and returned with appropriate cloths.
"B-be sharp now," Ashton said, signaling to the new attendant to step forward. "That's a g-good man." When his boots had received a brief but vigorous buffing, enough to restore the remnant of the gloss that had begun the day, Ashton brushed the cane aside, filled Mr. Shanking's surprised hand with a cascade of clinking coin, and strode through him and his young men as through a swinging door.
He approached the ladies, who collectively fanned their faces.
"G-good evening," he said. "S-sister, l-lovely as usual. J-Jane, C-Cassandra." They acted surprised that he had singled them out. "Y-your attendant has arrived," he added. "As p-promised."
Ashton's stutter gave the women a moment to recover their wits.
"What is responsible for the stampede, may I ask?" Jane said.
"Th-the coach broke down," he said. "I had to f-find m-my own way. The horse had no speed, but it c-could maintain a pace."
"Dear Ashton, why did you not stop for a proper change of clothes?" Alethea said. "You know where we are staying."
"I could not leave you alone with all the r-rogues and sc-scoundrels in Bath. It was only twenty miles." He spoke as if the rules of the road precluded fresh clothing for anything less than a full day in the saddle. "I said I would be here in time for the opening."
"Sometimes a composed arrival is to be preferred over a timely one," Jane said.
"I promised," he said.
He loomed over them, suddenly quiet, their dismay making him finally aware that the honoring of his commitment had been negated by his undignified entrance.
"Little brother," Alethea was able at last to say, shaking her head in exasperation.
Despite having always been large for his age, he had earned the descriptor little because of his youth — he was a decade younger than Alethea, five years younger than Jane. The brother and sister shared the same black hair color, the same robust complexion, and the same frank expression, but Alethea's build was that of her mother, plump torso and stubby limbs. Barely one and twenty, Ashton combined the most rugged and masculine blood of two families: the long-limbed angularity and fierce energy of his father and the sheer bulk of the men on his mother's side. He towered over not only Alethea but also Cassandra and Jane, themselves tall for their sex; and he was nearly as broad as the conscientiously slim Austen sisters combined. He stood next to the ladies like a stallion beside two greyhounds and a pug.
"Now that you are here, Ashton, what shall we do?" Alethea asked, her expression giving way to a smile of sisterly tolerance that Jane remembered well, from when Ashton was a boy. For years, when the girls were together, he would bang into the middle of the room, jump on the furniture to duel an unseen antagonist, or hurl himself among them and their needlework to demand that they ride with him down to the brook. "It is not our task to entertain you," Alethea would say. Taking him by the ear — for which task even then she had to reach skyward — she would drag him away. Jane, Cassandra, and the other Dennis sisters would pile chairs against the door to ensure their privacy. And they would laugh at his impudence.
"As it's a ball," he said now, "I suggest we dance." His stutter diminished as he became more comfortable. He took his sister's arm. They all made their way through the crowded dome-topped octagon that led to the ballroom. Some were curious about Ashton, but others, offended by the nature of his arrival, resembled the stony figures in the frieze on the wall. The musicians, placed above them in an amphitheater-shaped gallery, had completed their warm-up under the direction of the tie-wigged Mr. Rauzzini. The ballroom, the largest gathering place in Bath, was two stories high. Windows ringed the upper story across from the orchestra. Five large crystal chandeliers lit the floor. The room was painted robin's egg blue, a color that provided pleasing relief to the variety of pastels the women wore. The stringed instruments sent out preparatory strains of the first dance to alert those attendees who had drawn the numbers to open the ball. "J-Jane," Ashton asked. "W-would you care to dance?"
She had not seen him since the death of the Dennises' father eighteen months before. Always tall, Ashton had filled out. He was not the gangling, fumbling youth of before but a powerful young man. As he offered his hand, she was surprised at a new directness in his eyes. Almost immediately, however, she was distracted by his face, which had also changed. He had a high, broad forehead; his cheekbones and jaw were sharp and square. But one noticed the angles and edges rather than the whole. The result was that his face had become stronger yet less defined, as if he had been sculpted from stone that was too hard to be quite shaped into final form.
"Still the troublesome boy?" she asked. "You are the head of your family. You cannot address me as you would a childhood friend, but as a lady in good standing."
"Miss Austen, may I have the pleasure of your company in this dance?" he asked, leaning toward her. He carried the scent of a horse ridden hard, slightly acrid yet not entirely unpleasant to a lady from the country.
"Mr. Dennis, I fear that accepting your invitation would deprive too many young women of an opportunity to dance with you. All of Bath awaits. Surely you do not wish to waste your evening attending to the friends of your older sister?"
"I w-was not m-making the invitation through my s-sister or in regard to her," Ashton said stiffly. "I m-made the invitation to a l-lady with whom I wish to dance."
"Run along, Ashton," Alethea said, putting into words what all three women thought. "We have nothing to discuss that pertains to men."
"Then I rescind my invitation." His movement was that of a conjurer making a coin disappear. "It is invisible. It never happened." Though his tone was sarcastic, his action was a kindness, for if she refused his offer Jane would not be able to accept any other dance invitations later on. Moving away, he gave her a glance that was both inviting and forlorn. She responded with a small gesture of the hand to indicate the single ladies waiting at the other end of the floor.
Though she found him amusing, Jane had no intention of being Ashton's proxy. After his unorthodox entry, he would need someone to establish his credibility with the skeptical socialites of Bath. Jane had ceased to be the belle of the ball, but she was known among the families here; and her air of no-nonsense legitimacy would enable Ashton to move on after the customary pair of dances to the younger women who would be his real quarry. Jane Austen refused to serve as a stepping stone for any man, even a dear friend of the family.
When she had visited Bath as a young woman, the ballroom had been so packed that all one could see were the high feathers of the women's headdresses. (She for one was glad to see the end to this extreme ornamentation. Intended to accentuate a woman's height, ostrich feathers atop a lady's head made a woman look like nothing so much as a large, lumbering bird.) Though not as crowded these days, the ballroom still held several hundred people. Many of the attendees were the older, dull, and predictable set: the same women, with the same broad faces and fat necks, white shoes, and pink husbands. There were few couples being particular, she saw, and relatively few couples worth watching in case anything began to develop.
Even with the handful of Militia present, a number of ladies lacked partners. War had depleted the ranks of available young men, a fact that should work to Ashton's advantage. She watched him make his way through the clusters of people. By introducing himself to the men, he became known to the mothers or other female chaperones; in most cases he was granted an introduction to their charges.
As with all balls, the young ladies were arrayed according to clique. Ashton was too clever to begin with the wealthiest or prettiest girls; if he found rejection there, he would find rejection from every quarter. He began with the second tier, as it were; not the girls so hopelessly out of their element that his asking would be understood to be a ploy; but the middle group, young women who were socially acceptable but poor enough to accept an offer from any gentleman, regardless of the state of his footwear or his elocution. If she were younger, Jane thought, she would probably succumb to his pluck. She had always preferred to dance than to sit.
She could not find favor with his form and technique, however. When one lacks finesse, one does not necessarily replace it with enthusiasm. Still, he seemed to be enjoying himself, which is more than could be said for herself. An evening of ballroom conversation with Cassandra, Alethea, and passing acquaintances rapidly became tedious. As she circulated, she could not help but notice how all of the attendees, including herself, instinctively positioned their reflections to the greatest advantage in the massive gilt-framed looking glasses on the walls. And they instinctively checked those reflections, as she did now for herself. Yet despite the sharpness of her white muslin gown, the train tied up for dancing; the white, flat-soled satin shoes topped with green shoe-roses; and the green accents of hair ribbon and the frill along her ankles — despite all that she had done to enhance her presentation, she did not receive another invitation to dance.
She was in her own clique, of course, along with Cass, that of women who were stylish if overly stale. Her invitations no longer came from young men on their way up in society but from older men who had stalled or were in decline: unmarried clergy from poorly endowed parishes or lately widowed men of middle age and anxious finance. Even these frayed choices were absent in the thin crowd tonight, this being an off-season event related to tomorrow's hot-air balloon demonstration. Jane and Cass remained on the edge of the crowd, the better to be seen in the hope of a miracle.
"Young Ashton is rather good at making friends," Jane said to Alethea, not a little impressed. They had paused on their circuit, just outside the perimeter of the chandeliers so as to avoid the uncertain mizzle of dripping wax. Ashton had obtained half a dozen partners by sheer force of will, a stuttering determination to make himself known. Though he was like as not to be out of time by half a beat, or to risk damage to his partner's toes while attempting an intricate step, Jane observed that he treated the ladies with a humane good will — even apologizing to the girl in pink, who blushed the color of her dress. He did not at the first opportunity discard one woman for another one slightly higher on the ladder of suitability, as Jane had expected. Rather, his willingness to dance with anyone at all kept him bobbing along somewhere in the middle of the social order. At best, treading the tepid social Bath waters. His clumsy solicitousness toward the women and his determination to give every unpartnered lady her time upon the floor, however, did have an unexpected benefit. Before the evening was out, Mr. Shanking himself — the Arbiter Elegantiarum — began making introductions for him.
"I think Ashton has no other purpose but to enjoy himself," Jane remarked. "It is a rather shocking concept for a ball."
"The best element continues to resist," Alethea said. "There is a limit to what impertinence can achieve."
"He deserves a puff of breeze in his sail," Jane said. On the feint of admiring a dress, she approached the closest group of the well-to-do, a family she had met before. Within a few moments she had the young ladies laughing; soon after, they were found to be shooting admiring glances in Ashton's direction. Jane returned to Cassandra and Alethea with a satisfied smile.
"Observe," she said.
Whispers and fleeting looks spread like fire among dry leaves. Previously, the finest of families had managed to be facing away or busy in conversation when Ashton approached. Now, the same mothers and daughters smiled encouragingly when he turned toward them. The young ladies in particular arranged themselves to be very much in his path as he walked off the floor between sets.
"Whatever did you say?" Alethea asked. "Did you offer them gold?"
"Very much the same thing," Jane said. "To us, Ashton is our noisy and disruptive little brother. But to the single women of Bath, young Mister Dennis is now understood to be the strapping inheritor of the largest estate in Hampshire."
Excerpted from The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen by Collins Hemingway. Copyright © 2015 Collins Hemingway. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Let me start by saying that I have a degree in English literature, Jane Austen is without a doubt my FAVORITE author, I love historical fiction and I am a true lover of all Jane Austen Fan Fiction. This book falls into all 3 of those categories on some level which is probably why I loved it so much. Any Austenite hungers for any information they can get on her and of course love to opine on how her life might have been, how it might have been different, and what would have happened had she married and had children. This book does exactly that - it gives Austen a voice and shows what her life might have been like and more importantly - how she may have actually had suitors. I love the character of Jane in this book - she is just as we would expect - a total spitfire of a woman when that was just not okay in society. We get to see how she reacts to others, and of course I had to laugh when she would "bristle" when someone said something in the book. That is just what I would expect - I think she may have been a lot more like Elizabeth Bennet - who is my heroine of all time - than anyone realized. Of course we know she never met her own Mr Darcy, but through the book Jane sees that there are in fact men in her world who are interested in her - but will she end up married in the end? Will the author give us the ending we all want? So many times while reading this book I just had to giggle - everytime Jane "bristles"; when she considers the horseman to look like Napoleon; and of course every time Jane steps in to outdo a man. But the rest you will have to read to giggle for yourself, and I promise you will if you are a true Austen fan! I really loved how real this seemed, it was not sarcastic or inane in any way - it was a truly revealing look at how things may have played out. And Ashton, who is the main suitor in the book, is a compelling character because he is REAL. He has a stutter but he can definitely stand up and be the man she needs and towards the end of the book we see him in an entirely different light - we see that he does have the capability to literally sweep Jane off her feet, and I absolutely love the scene that almost mirrors Pride and Prejudice (hint hint). But all in all I was very pleased with the outcome of the book and I can't wait for the sequel but I will not be giving you any spoilers!!!! Ohhh here is a spoiler ... go and buy a copy of the book :D It's worth it if you are an Austenite :) This Austenite is totally ready for Part Deux! ***I was given a free book to read - the review is of my own free will and I was not required to leave a review on this book***
Though I've read several works fit for the Austenite masses, each one has its own charms. In this particular undertaking, we have Jane receiving the attention of a familiar young man with his intentions as obvious as the day is long...at least to everyone BUT the intended. Ah yes, Ms. Austen seems to be oblivious to that which is on offer from one Mr. Dennis, and yet, I can't help but second her second guessing nature. Was it too much to ask that the question be asked plainly? Was it too much to have some courtship, however frivolous it may seem, if not out of courtesy, than out of love? Was it too hard to see that while not actively seeking another half, the appearance of what might be her perfect match would be as dis-settling as it was secretly welcomed? No matter how level headed or practical a girl, pardon me...a woman is, it doesn't mean that all the romance should be swept under the rug...even when it comes to someone as wily with words as our dear Jane. In the end, I enjoyed the trip through the early 1800's for the story as well as the company we kept. It's not every day you meet a young man trying desperately to impress a woman of which he is sweet on, only to have his efforts thwarted time and again by both the woman herself and outside forces (think hot air balloon ride turned cross country expedition!). The scandal that follows was fitting for the times but enough to turn any modern woman red in the face in exasperation...as was the ensuing shunning of both parties, family, and friends. The broken paths of relationships that follows, however brief and caste they may be, paves the way for a potential "one day" that'll find them in the right place, at the right time, and in the right frame of mind AND heart...while delivering a story that readers can believe in, as much as any fictitious story can become a truth. **copy received for review
The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen has all one might expect of Hemingway: a central female character that is not only strong but also intelligent, witty, confident and courageous. In addition to crafting a well-written love story, he immerses Jane and his other characters in the frightening and exciting times of the Regency Era to include political, scientific and industrial advances, the seemingly never-ending war between England and France and changing society norms, all of which Jane embraces with a passion that is not always appreciated by others. Hemingway captures the reader’s interest immediately with his well-crafted dialogue, characters, settings and plot, and holds it through the entire ride—whetting the appetite for more!