Pam Mingle & Mary Bennet

Mingle PamelaIn mid-December we’ll talk about Austen here at the Riskies, something of a tradition as we celebrate Jane’s birthday on December 15. But we’re getting a sneak preview today with guest blogger Pam Mingle, whose new release The Pursuit of Mary Bennet riskily takes on Mary, the girl Austen probably didn’t intend us to like at all! I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy, and it’s a great read.

Here’s Pam:

PursuitMaryBennet pbIn 2013 we have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen’s iconic novel. But it was sheer happenstance that my book, The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, ended up being published the same year. For many years now, Pride & Prejudice has been my go-to book when I seek comfort. When the world looks dark and unforgiving, and I need a better place to be. If that happens, I usually find myself curled up with my battered copy of the novel.

What does it offer that we can’t seem to find anywhere else? Charm, humor, witty dialogue, memorable characters, enduring themes, and at its heart, a love story for the ages. In the end, it’s the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy that continues to draw me back time and time again. Some have pronounced Pride & Prejudice the first romance novel, one that set the pattern for all those that have followed. In the first half of the book, all the obstacles to a romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are developed: Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, Elizabeth’s family and lack of connections, her attraction to Mr. Wickham, her hasty and premature judgment of Mr. Darcy’s character. Despite all this, he proposes because the “violence” of his feelings for her trumps everything else. Except for her own feelings. The proposal, and Elizabeth’s rejection of him, is one of the great scenes in literature.

In the second half of the book, the obstacles fall one by one. Elizabeth sees Wickham for what he really is; Mr. Darcy, despite his natural reserve, changes. He goes out of his way to help “poor Lydia” and avert disaster for the Bennet family. Elizabeth is not blind to the change in his character. Austen handles it all so beautifully and skillfully. In the end, their coming together is natural and expected. It’s easy to see why Pride & Prejudice is thought of as the original model for love stories.

I chose Mary Bennet as my main character because she, too, is a person in want of change, and with the potential to do so. She reads, she plays music (although not very well). She thinks seriously about matters, even though her conclusions are often faulty. In The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, Mary wants to change, to re-invent herself. She prepares herself to become more independent. If she finds romance along the way…well, there’s nothing wrong with that! Here’s a brief summary:

For most of her life, Mary, the serious and unpolished middle Bennet sister, has been overshadowed by her sisters—Jane, Elizabeth, Kitty, and Lydia. When a very pregnant Lydia returns to Longbourn and scandalously announces she’s left Wickham, Mary and Kitty are packed off to visit Jane in Derbyshire. It is there that Mary encounters the handsome and eligible Henry Walsh.Unschooled in the game of love, Mary finds his warm attentions confounding. With her heart and her future at risk, Mary must throw caution to the wind and begin a journey of discovery that will teach her surprising lessons about herself and the desires of her heart.

HarperCollins has kindly offered two copies of the book, so please enter and spread the word! If you post a comment, Pam would love to hear what you think of the “new” Mary, and the Riskies want to know what YOU love about Pride & Prejudice.

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10 Responses to Pam Mingle & Mary Bennet

  1. Lori J. says:

    Another P&P variation! Hooray! Definitely adding this one to my wishlist. Look forward to seeing what Pam dreamt up for Mary. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  2. Good luck, Lori, and I know you’ll enjoy the book! I have a question for Pam, who’ll be dropping by shortly: without any spoilers, how did you avoid Mary falling for Mr. Collins? Because I would have thought at that stage in her life, he would have been her ideal mate!

    • Pam Mingle says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Lori J!
      To answer your question, Janet, I set my book three years after P&P, so Mr. Collins was safely married to Charlotte Lucas! Mrs. Bennet, after Elizabeth had rejected Mr. C., thought maybe he would pay court to Mary or Kitty, and Mary herself believed she might turn him into a worthwhile companion. Fortunately for my Mary, that didn’t happen.

  3. And my next question–and now I’m trying not to give spoilers–what research did you do on the rearing of babies in the period? (Let’s talk babies! AAAAW) I’ve often thought that with high infant mortality rates and the likelihood of dying in childbirth, as so many of Austen’s inlaws did, that raising children must have been particularly fraught.

  4. This book, I have added it in my wishlist. It sounds very well. I like so much this character of Mary Bennet, so I am interesting in this story.
    Best wishes with this book.
    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

  5. Renee T. says:

    I’m so glad to see a story about Mary! She’s often the overlooked Bennet sister and she needs her HEA, too. I’ve always pictured Mary going with Elizabeth or Jane and getting some true music lessons, since she loves to play, or finding someone who will debate her on the dry books she favors. I want to see Mary come out of her shell, from behind the shadows of her more accomplished or infamous sisters! Can’t wait to read this!

  6. Pam Mingle says:

    Someone is psychic, but I won’t say who!

    Unfortunately, Austen’s letters tell us that childbirth was at best a scary proposition during that time (and all those preceding it). Death among women “gone to childbed” was common. Interesting subjects that arose while researching care of newborns were: nappies (how were they fastened? were they called “nappies?”) and bottle feeding (was it ever done? were there bottles for feeding babies?).

    And raising a child to adulthood was never a sure thing, due mainly to disease.

    • If you get the opportunity to check out the Threads of Feeling exhibit online or at Williamsburg, or have the book of the exhibit, the intake ledger lists what babies wore. Nappies were called clouts and they were covered with a woolen item called a pilch (tightly woven wool is pretty waterproof, like boiled wool). But washing must have been horrible. I believe they used straight pins to hold everything together. Yikes.

  7. Jane Bigelow says:

    I’m so curious to see what Pam has done with Mary’s life after P & P. Yay, Pam, for giving her a chance to tell her story!

  8. Pam Mingle says:

    Hi, Jane! Thanks for visiting. Hope you’ll like my imagining of Mary’s tale.

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