First off, thanks to Judy/Judi, aka Kitchen Goddess, for the invite to your blog and helping with the launch of my newest baby. (And the dinner of salmon chowder. Sublime!)
Q: You know how I feel about Joss, but he had to work hard to finagle Beatrice into marrying him. She’s such a clueless person in so many ways–smart, kind, and loyal—but so focused on her father, books, and writing. You had to enjoy writing her, she lives so much in her own head. How did you come up with her character?
A: Like most of my characters, she came into my head “whole” and alive. I’ve met many big-brained people like her, book smart but oblivious to the obvious or with no common sense. INHO, it’s only fair that they’re lacking in something, being blessed with the ability to ace tests. Yep, that’s envy. Give me an essay anytime; multiple guess makes my mind go blank.
Q: Beatrice’s father is such a kind, thoughtful man. Yes, he’s a clergyman, but he and his widowed lady friend have been fond of each other for years. Be honest. Haven’t they ever had a little fun on the side when Beatrice is off doing something else?
A: From all I’ve read of the era, it’s doubtful. Marriages were frequently “anticipated” but with the older generation and a member of the clergy, not so much. But then, Mom once told me that I was pretty naïve about such things. (I was in my twenties at the time.)
Q: In the book, Joss entices Beatrice to marry him by offering to publish her essays, even though women writers were frowned upon and dismissed at that time…and even though Joss had to buy shares in a publishing company to keep his promise. (Okay, he told a small white lie, but that only made me love him more). We never hear the outcome of her writing career. Was it successful? Did she become a best-selling author?
A: Beatrice was only interested in publication to present her ideas for discussion and consideration. Had I decided to include that in the Epilogue she would have been published with only a first initial and last name. Oblivious she may be, but she was also pragmatic. A female essayist would have been largely ignored in this time period, whether or not her work was brilliant.
Q: Joss and his friends are very progressive husbands for the Regency era. What made Joss that way, so supportive of women?
A: Separation from his mother by his father. He admired her love of the written word and poetry. She’d been reared in an earlier era (Georgian) when many girls of the upper classes were expected to remain illiterate.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
A: This is one of those extraordinary instances when a story wrote itself. No plotting or fussing needed, other than the usual editing issues. I love it when characters make me laugh out loud, and quirky Beatrice did that a lot. I wanted to put her in many more embarrassing situations but in the end, liked her too much to be cruel.
Care to tempt us with an excerpt from the book?
A: Sure. How they met:
Beatrice knelt in front of the gap in the fence amid further protests that she would ruin her muslin frock or cause a rip in the tight-fitting spencer, which happened to be Beatrice’s favorite. Due to its snug fit, she was able to squeeze her body through the slats. She attempted to wriggle through until stopped by the curve of her hips. The indent of her waist allowed for room to breathe. Stretching as far as possible, held snug by the wooden slats, she managed to grab the piglet’s front leg and drag him closer. Scrumpy squealed louder. Once the piglet was no longer forcing the tangled rope around his leg to be drawn tight and taut, Beatrice got the knotted twine unfastened and slipped it over the tiny, cloven foot. The pig immediately calmed to making soft grunts.
Beatrice exhaled a relieved sigh and carefully maneuvered a retreat from between the slats, but got stuck with the dilemma of how to maintain a hold on the piglet whilst wriggling back out. To her profound dismay, she heard Mrs. Prichard call out to someone. Beatrice couldn’t imagine anything more humiliating than getting caught on her hands and knees with her back end and nothing else exposed to the world.
She struggled gamely until Mrs. Pritchard said, “Oh, sir! Sir, would you kindly assist my dear Miss Allardyce? If you would take my piglet from her, I do believe she can bring herself through the fence.”
A hand encased in a tan driving glove appeared from over the fence and reached by Beatrice’s cheek to take the pig from her grasp. The next thought that entered her head was that the gentleman had to be tall to reach over the fence so easily. As she twisted sideways with breath indrawn, she heard Mrs. Pritchard expressing a joyous reunion with her pet.
Face burning, Beatrice extricated herself from between the fence and accepted the gloved palm waiting to assist her to her feet. She tried to keep her eyes cast downward but it was difficult not to notice what stood before her as she rose up. Dread filled her being. This was no villager.
She first noted the sparkle of black top boots that identified the particular care of a gentleman’s gentleman. Then came the snug fit of immaculate breeches seen through the parting of an unfastened, ankle-length greatcoat. The drape of its superior cloth proclaimed it cost enough to feed a dozen families for a year. She looked higher. His preference of Brummel-austere style was made known with the subtle statement of only one fob draped across a black waistcoat secured by a golden pocket chain. When she stood fully upright, he removed a monocle, allowing it to hang from its black ribbon, and dipped his head in a nod of greeting.
Beatrice, achingly aware of the disheveled state of her person, dipped a curtsey. “My thanks for your assistance, sir.”
“It was entirely my pleasure, Miss Allardyce.”
If only a crevice in the earth would open up and swallow her whole, but before that wish could present itself, Mrs. Pritchard spoke up. “You are indeed an answer to prayer! Please forgive my curiosity, but I do not believe you are from Bruntwich-on-Lye.”
“You are correct, ma’am. I am waiting for a small repair to my curricle before pressing on to London.”
“I have never been, you know,” Mrs. Pritchard coyly informed, cuddling her pet to her bosom. Scrumpy nestled against her, his little pink snout twitching with contentment. After being the cause of one of the most humiliating moments of her life, Beatrice was ready to toss the spoiled swine into the nearest cauldron.
A fresh wave of embarrassment swept through Beatrice when she noticed that her dirt-smeared hand had soiled the gentleman’s tan glove. The front of her white muslin frock had mud smudges over the knees, its hem already grubby from taking a shorter route to the village through a sheep pasture. She felt entirely undone in the presence of this gentleman’s perfection. She dared to glance up and encountered a cool gaze from hazel eyes under straight, black eyebrows. His was a lean and haughty face, making her glad he’d removed the monocle. Being viewed through that single lens would be worse than a minute inspection with a quizzing glass.
This gentleman’s sweeping and impersonal inspection made her nervous and his detached urbanity proved disconcerting. She offered a shallow curtsey in farewell and whirled to escape.
A silky baritone, lacquered with a vaguely mocking undertone, relayed volumes with two words. “Miss Allardyce?”
Forcing down a nervous swallow, she collected poise, turned, and lifted an eyebrow. He extended her package. She hadn’t noticed it in his hand, distracted by embarrassment and feeling unsettled by the presence of so much masculine confidence and elegance. It was scarcely her fault that she’d never encountered a man so sophisticated. Her father’s humble, priestly manner bore no resemblance to this sort of male.
She accepted the parcel, twitched a smile, and sought relief in the knowledge that it was unlikely she’d ever see him again, but he proved her wrong by attending Sunday service the following morning.
Thanks for coming today, M.L. Rigdon–aka Julia Donner
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
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