Category Archives: Regency

Understanding Elizabeth

Book Release!

understanding-elizabeth-3dMore and more, I understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book,” written nearly 350 years ago. The first line, “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” just about sums up how I felt when I touched the publish button Tuesday night.

A good writer always reveals a part of herself when she writes, and that’s a bit intimidating. In the case of Understanding Elizabeth, there are clues about my childhood and teen years.

I have never been very good at sports or physical games. I should clarify that I was actually hit in the forehead by a fly ball while holding my glove over my face trying to catch it. I was a teenager playing in a church softball game, and I had the attention of our entire small town at the time. Embarrassing? Yes. It knocked me flat on my back, and I think I passed out for a minute or two. Or maybe I just didn’t want to get up and face the crowd.

A similar incident, in which I was hit in my jaw by a ball straight off the bat, happened in elementary school. I was so humiliated that I stuck my finger down my throat so I could pretend to be sick and go home. It worked. I was a tricky little person.

However, I never had any problems with the three R’s, and I loved that aspect of school. I shared in a previous post that my sister Gayle (a natural-born teacher if there ever was one) taught me to read when I was four. She also taught me to play chess. Since I don’t remember when I couldn’t play, I have no idea how old I was.

I was lousy at basketball, softball, or anything else with “ball” in it, but I loved word games and games of strategy. Playing musical instruments came fairly easily as well, because I enjoyed practicing. My entire family was musical. Gayle and I played piano and flute, Layne played clarinet, and all of us (six children!) sang along with Mama and Daddy.

I incorporated that feeling of joy at being good at something into Understanding Elizabeth. My Elizabeth doesn’t ride a horse, though there’s a lovely scene in which Darcy teaches her (le sigh!), but she’s a chess master. She isn’t shy about it, either. They fall in love over books and chess.

Darcy is socially awkward, but he excels in academic and physical pursuits. He’s a man who can discuss favorite books with the heroine. (My husband read all of Jane Austen’s works so he could understand what my daughters and I were talking about. He’s watched the film versions several times, too. Yes, ladies, there really are men like that.)

These are two capable, intelligent people who recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.

I have no problem with knowing your strong points as long as you also know your limitations. To me, that isn’t being proud; it’s giving yourself realistic goals. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s fine to be happy with yourself, as long as you don’t settle for less that what you can do.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Elizabeth as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book is very different from my six previous books. I will be very interested in your feedback.



Writing Revolution

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I’m in the very final stage of publishing my newest book, Understanding Elizabeth. Because it’s my seventh indie publishing effort, some steps are easier for me, but others have become more complicated.


My earliest writing (the Guardian Trilogy) consisted of outlining the basic plot, writing the chapters, sending my work to my betas, taking their corrections, posting on Beyond Austen (as well as Derbyshire Writer’s Guild, Darcy & Lizzy, Fanfiction, and Austen Underground), formatting, one final edit, and publishing.

I now understand that it is much easier to format as I write, so that isn’t the huge headache it used to be, but I have become much pickier (real word?) about my writing.

I rushed to publish my first six books, but with this latest one, I have taken six months between completing the writing of the story and publishing it. In addition to all the steps listed above (minus posting on all those forums except Beyond Austen), I have gone through six edits and rewrites. I finished the final rewrite yesterday, and I’m nearly ready to release my child to make her way in the world.

Today, I hope to put the book in the print template so I’ll have a page count for the cover designer. I also want to finish the formatting of the ebook version and send it to my very talented friend, author Wendi Sotis. She’s a wizard at all things tech, and she has the final look at my formatting.

With a little luck, I may publish the ebook Saturday. 

Exciting times!


Did you just insult me?

I’ve been researching rude words from the 1800s in England, and it occurred to me that an insulter could use these words with a smile, and the insultee might never know what the words actually meant.

For instance, unless the insulter’s facial expression gave it away, I would probably thank a person who referred to me as a blooming berk (a darned idiot), thinking it had something to do with flowers. It would be better to reply, “Cobblers!” (rubbish or nonsense) to such a statement.

I now know to be highly insulted if I am ever called a “gormless munter” (stupid, very ugly woman).
Gormless munter
Would you rather be a plonker, a duffer, a prat, a wally, a pillock, a numpty, a wazzack, or a muppet? It doesn’t really matter. All of them mean “idiot.” I may use those. “You’re such a wally!” said with a laugh could be fun.

I made this myself!

I made this myself!

The number of sexual words which were (and are) used in an insulting context is shocking, and here on JSI, we earnestly seek to avoid upsetting our gentle readers. Therefore, I will refrain from posting any of them (or a link).

True story. In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I met an evangelist from England. I was holding our first born. She was not quite a year old at the time. I kissed her and called her a cute little bugger. He nearly spewed his tea. “Don’t ever say that!” he thundered. I was bum-fuzzled. What had I said? I asked him, and after hemming and hawing, he whispered, “That’s the worst sort of a child molester.” I didn’t know child molesters were graded on a sliding scale, but I took his word for it. I’ve now added “bugger” to my list of “words we don’t say.” Did I just say that?

An engagement ring for Christmas? Hmm . . .

christmas-engagementAccording to WOKV, a state court in Georgia recently ruled that Christopher Ned Kelley owes his former fiancee Melissa Cooper, with whom he lived for more than a decade, $50,000 for cheating on her. He had fathered her child and given her a $10,000 ring, promising to marry her. Cooper had resigned from her job to raise their child, depending on Kelley to provide for his family, but when she found out Kelley had cheated on her for a second time, she sued him for fraud and for “breach of promise to marry.” She also broke off the engagement and kicked him out of their home.

His defense was that he never intended to marry her. Here’s his statement: “I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring,” he said. “I never said the words ‘will you marry me’ to her.” I guess the ring and the baby were a ploy. He said that she was actually his prostitute. He paid for things, and she provided sexual services for him.

Georgia abolished common law marriages in 1997, so she had no grounds there, and I don’t understand why she didn’t break it off the first time he cheated on her. Besides, he is clearly not husband material. He doesn’t even know the difference between a statement and a question.

I think the case is interesting. Gentlemen, be warned. If you give her an engagement ring and a baby, you have promised to marry her, even if you have cleverly avoided asking the question.

In Regency times, engagements were legally binding. Before a formal engagement, young ladies were expected to be chaste, but once the engagement was announced, the rules were substantially relaxed. Therefore, a broken engagement ruined both the reputation of the lady and the pocketbook of the gentleman. Because the woman was unlikely to find another suitor with such a blot on her character, her male relative could sue the jilter, most often resulting in his payment of a fine (250 pounds). Occasionally, the man would choose instead to marry the lady, though I would not have been amenable to that arrangement for a daughter of mine. That’s too similar to the redneck “shot gun weddings” of them thar hills.

Regency House Party

regency house party posterIf you haven’t seen this nine-week series from 2004, check it out on YouTube. There are thirty-six episodes which were originally shown in four parts. I’m watching it as research for a summer house party in the third book (Forever Yours) of my new series, Yours by Design.regencyhouseparty

I’m going to publish the first book in the series, Accidentally Yours, in December. The second book, Sincerely Yours, will follow in February or March. I have one more chapter to write.

I’m aiming for an early summer publishing date for the third and final book, Forever Yours.

Excellent Emmas, Robin’s Recommendations

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam

I own four different film versions of Jane Austen’s Emma: the 1972 six-part BBC miniseries with Doran Godwin and John Carson; the 1996 Hollywood film with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, Toni Collette, and Ewan McGregor; the 1996 ITV TV film starring Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, and Raymond Coulthard; and the 2009 four-part BBC miniseries featuring Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Louise Dylan, and Rupert Evans.
Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong

Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong

Everyone in my family has read the book, so we have had lively debates concerning our favorite film adaptations. None of us like the 1972 miniseries; everyone seems too old for their parts and the film quality is poor. We like different characters in the 1996 Hollywood and ITV versions, though we all prefer Kate Beckinsale to Gwyneth Paltrow (too nasal and too old for the part). Because the handsomest guys win with me, I like Jeremy Northam best of all the Mr. Knightleys and Raymond Coulthard for Frank Churchill. My husband thinks that Mark Strong does a better job with the Mr. Knightley part, and I do see his point. I will also agree that Strong is quite handsome when he wears his hat. My husband, influenced mainly by her pretty face, gives Kate Beckinsale the nod for the part of Emma. My daughter prefers Beckinsale as well. For the part of Harriet, Toni Collette is a wonderful actress, but she doesn’t look the part. We all agree that Samantha Morton deserves the nod there.

Beckinsale and Strong See what I mean about the hat?

Beckinsale and Strong
See what I mean about the hat?

We also are unanimous that the 1996 Kate Beckinsale version deserves kudos for beginning and ending with the chicken thieves, and we like the inclusion of the harvest ball during which Emma lets go of her pride and extends her hand to Robert Martin. That’s all true to the book.

Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller

Romola Garia and
Jonny Lee Miller

The 2009 BBC miniseries stands alone. At first, I thought it was too much of a departure from the real character of Emma Woodhouse, but when I watched it a second time, I became a fan – so much so that my husband bought me the DVD set for our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. I like all the characters, though Louise Dylan should never be filmed lying down. That angle does dreadful things to her neck and face. Jonny Lee Miller is not devastatingly handsome, but he nails the part, though no one else will ever match Mark Strong’s rant after everyone learns of the engagement between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. What we particularly liked was the fresh angle on the story.
Romola Garai

Romola Garai

It opens with Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill being sent away from Highbury as children, contrasting their lives with Emma’s sheltered childhood at Hartfield. All three of them lost their mothers, but Emma’s father was the only one who kept his children with him. That explains why he is so loath to let Emma go, and it gives a plausible excuse for the actions of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. They were, in Anne Shirley’s words, “kindred spirits,” having shared similar backgrounds.

In other words, I have no clear favorite. I watch my three favorites, choosing according to my mood. Whom do you prefer?

Accidentally Yours

I have put up the first installment of my work in progress, Accidentally Yours, at Beyond Austen. If you haven’t joined the forum yet, you will have to do that in order to read the story. I would love to have your feedback.

Here’s a short excerpt to whet your appetite.

Do you mean to frighten me coming in all this state to hear me play?

Darcy grew increasingly annoyed as he watched Elizabeth across the room, sitting at the pianoforte, talking privately with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. How is it that she will talk so freely in that familiar way with him? She must know that he cannot offer for her, as he is a second son and requires a lady with both a fortune and connections, and she knows very well that she has neither. If a gentleman’s intentions are not of significance to her, why does she so freely bestow her smiles upon him and yet ignore me? And what is my cousin about? Does he not realize that he could be raising her expectations with his undue attentions?

He nearly snorted with impatience. This is the first I have seen of her since we arrived at Rosings nearly a week ago, and she cannot spare even a glance for me, though she attends every word of his as if each one held all the éclat of a proverb.

Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine, was talking interminably at him, as usual. It could in no sense be called a conversation, for a reply was rarely needed or wanted by the lady. He knew that the look on his face plainly expressed his feelings, but he could not find it within himself to care. Darcy tore his eyes away from his cousin and looked at his aunt’s audience. Collins’s entire demeanor displayed his rapt attention, while his wife, Charlotte, wore a look of resignation. The pale face of his cousin Anne and her insipid countenance were no different from the way she always looked, and Mrs. Jenkinson mirrored every expression of her employer.

Finally, his aunt actually insulted Miss Bennet by informing her imperiously that she needed to practice the pianoforte with regularity in order to improve her performance. Lady Catherine compounded the offense by offering her, in a voice loud enough shake the crystal, the use of the instrument in Mrs. Jenkinson’s room, saying that Miss Bennet would be in no one’s way in the servants’ wing.

Darcy could stand no more. He stood, though his aunt had not broken her diatribe, and strode to stand beside the pianoforte, facing Elizabeth as well as his cousin, who sat close beside her on the pretext of turning the pages for her while she played.

Knowing that his attraction for Elizabeth was inappropriate for numerous reasons, Darcy had studiously avoided her while Colonel Fitzwilliam had visited her at the Parsonage each day since their arrival. Now, he would stay away from her no longer. He found it completely intolerable to watch her bestow her smiles and attentions upon another man. He knew that he could not have Elizabeth for himself, but he refused to stand by while Fitzwilliam monopolized her. All the women of Darcy’s acquaintance hung on his every word; Elizabeth would be no different.

Elizabeth paused and looked up at him, raising an eyebrow. “You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”

Ah! Now I have her attention. Darcy’s face was serious as he replied to her sally, “I shall not say that you are mistaken, because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which, in fact, are not your own.” Fitzwilliam may look dashing in his regimentals, but he cannot keep up with her wit and intelligence as I can.

Elizabeth laughed aloud, and Darcy bestowed a rare, dimpled smile upon her, gauging its effect.

Two Darcys . . . two worlds . . . two time periods. Which Darcy will Elizabeth choose?