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Nicole Clarkston's The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, has just released and I am excited to be launching the blog tour for Nicole and her book here at More Agreeably Engaged. I have had the privilege of reading along as this Pride & Prejudice Prequel was being written and I knew from the onset that it was a winner. The Gardiners have always been two of my favorite minor characters in Pride & Prejudice. Having their own story is icing on that cake that I love!
Ms. Clarkston does a remarkable job of bringing into her prequel, a little Lizzy, Jane, Georgiana and a teenage Darcy. (even a young Charles Bingley) As I was reading this novella, the events in it were so realistic and natural that I could see it happening exactly as it was portrayed! Well done, Nicole!
Readers, if you love the Gardiners, you will adore their story. Today, Nicole Clarkston tells why she chose this couple for her tale. We also have an excerpt and a giveaway! Enjoy!
When I wrote No Such Thing As Luck and Rumours and Recklessness, I found that tag-teaming my books actually helped me break through the dreaded writer’s block. Therefore, while I was working on Northern Rain, I started playing with the idea of writing another Pride and Prejudice-inspired story at the same time. I toyed with a few possible plot lines, but the one which kept coming back was to look at some secondary characters whom I admired, and to develop their romance a little.
The Gardiners play such a pivotal role in the original story. Theirs is the common sense, the model of a loving marriage, and the mature intervention which helped to save Lydia and which brought two most deserving couples to the only sensible conclusion. Little, however, was given about their history in Jane Austen’s work, and they have continued to be only secondary characters in the JAFF world. When I picked them up and started studying them, I soon found out why.
One of my favorite sayings is “Perfect people are boring,” (and then I usually tack on some quip about being rather “interesting” myself, but I digress). In this case, the maxim tends to hold true. One of the things we love about Elizabeth and Darcy is that they are both terribly flawed people, who fortunately both possess good hearts and a desire to improve themselves. Even sweet Jane and her affable Bingley have their foibles, for their own troubles would never have proven so monstrous had Jane expressed her feelings and Bingley acted upon his. Every other character in the story (with the exception of Mrs Reynolds, perhaps) is absolutely full of imperfections and leaves the imaginative writer plenty of room for creativity.
Not so with this eminently sensible, reasonable pair of people. One must conclude that, being human, they would naturally have experienced their share of trials, but they are not the focus of Jane Austen’s work. What we do see is a man and a woman who are respectable above their station, who never utter a syllable that is not wise, and who care deeply about their relations. What is not to love, right? A great deal, if you are an author trying to dig up their past and make it interesting!
I wanted to stay as close to their canon characters as possible, so gross misunderstandings and misfortunes brought on by judgements in error were not an option. The sort of wisdom and maturity this couple exhibits did not seem to have grown out of such a background. We all have our difficulties, however, and Regency romances (or Georgian, as this story technically would have been) are rife with young women in need of a husband. From that idea, the story began to spin itself.
As is so often the case, Madeline is the beautiful vase left on the top shelf, and it is starting to get a little lonely up there. Even the shelf upon which she perches is shrinking, as she discovers her friends moving away for good and her father unable to continue much longer with his business. She desperately wants a home and children of her own, but as Elizabeth Bennet would similarly declare over a decade later, she wishes to marry only for love, and to find a man she can respect.
Edward is experiencing romantic woes of his own. As a successful tradesman just hitting his stride, he would have been well positioned to marry. However, he did not have a long pedigree to his name, so it is not impossible to believe that another, better established businessman might have snapped up the marital connection that Edward had desired for himself. In the opening chapters of the book, Edward is licking his wounds. We see him reevaluating what he really wishes for in a wife, and coming to the conclusion that perhaps his first choice was not truly the best one. Perhaps there is more to finding a life partner than just seeking a pretty face, and in the expected places. Perhaps, somewhere in the forest, there still lives a unicorn.
I picture Madeline Gardiner as a woman who is not given to drama, who is accustomed to tempering her own desires and caring for others. Hopefully we all have a woman like this in our lives. She is the woman who sows grace and comfort wherever she goes; who quietly and unobtrusively walks through this world lifting others up. Those of us blessed to know one of these gems understand her true worth far better than she herself does. She has a ready and understanding smile to light our day, and we never go near her but that we come away feeling a little better about ourselves and about humanity in general. Such is the woman that Edward Gardiner encounters, and he recognizes that fact the instant he sees her.
Austen gives us only few hints about Edward’s character. He is intelligent and gentlemanly, he must be a clever businessman, he maintains close ties with his two eldest nieces, and bears little resemblance to his sisters. He is a cheerful man who is interested in fishing, and a devoted husband. Perhaps it is inevitable that I filled in the remaining gaps of his character with traits from another man I admire: my husband. From him, I borrowed Edward’s slight bashfulness at the beginning, his easy sense of humor, and his almost immediate decisiveness regarding Madeline. Several times during the course of the story, Edward has an opportunity to either do what he most wishes to do, or stop to help someone else. Just as he does in Austen’s original story, he consistently chooses the later. What woman would not love such a man?
It was a treat to bring together two such admirable people, and to plant the seeds for all that we know is to come. They are not a flamboyant couple. They are as most of us are- simple hearts searching for another to love; honest folk who make this world a little better by having lived in it.
A modern saying goes something like this: “If you really want to know a person’s character, give them a slow internet connection.” It is how we approach our difficulties which defines us, be they earth-shattering or comparatively trivial. As Edward says at the end, “All roads are not perfectly smooth,” but their journey was an enjoyable one for me.
Madeline delivered the letter for her father and sucked in a delicious breath of the summer air as she stepped out of the office door. She loved this time of the year. Spring had spoken of its promises long enough, and the time had come to deliver them. Closing her eyes briefly as she strolled down the street, she relished the fragrance of the growing hay fields near the village. So enraptured was she by the vibrancy of everything touching her senses, she tipped her chin yet higher and claimed another refreshing breath. It seemed the whole world was warm and alive!
Without warning, something else warm and very much alive assaulted her about the knees. Madeline nearly stumbled in shock. She opened her eyes and put her hands protectively forward, fearful of either falling or dropping her precious parcel. “B-beg your pardon!” tumbled automatically from her lips.
There, splayed on her bottom in the dust of the road, was a young girl in a light green traveling smock. She was turning her indignant little face slowly upward to survey her attacker. Her brow puckered and her dark eyes sparkled curiously.
Madeline gave a start. She shifted her parcel at once to help the little girl to her feet. “I am so sorry! Did I hurt you?” she inquired gently.
The child looked back thoughtfully for about two seconds, then her face lit with good humour. She began to laugh merrily and accepted Madeline’s offered hand. “No!” she answered brightly. “I am not hurt! It is such a lovely town, and there was a bird just there that I was watching and… oh, I think I am also to ask if I hurt you. Did I?”
Madeline chuckled at this extraordinary child. “Not at all. Where do you come from, my little bird-watching friend?”
The child’s eyes became at once suspicious. “Papa told me when we set out that I was not to speak to strangers.”
“Oh, of course he is quite right,” Madeline agreed seriously. “A lady can never be too careful!”
The child grinned happily again. “I suppose it is all right, if you are a lady too. You look like a lady- oh, my, your dress is such a pretty colour! I so love lavender. My mama does not like me to wear that colour because she says I stain it so in the grass, and green hides it better, but when I am old enough to wear my hair up I will wear lavender every day!”
Madeline was, by now, biting back a peal of laughter. What an unusual and interesting child this was! She dipped a slow, exaggerated curtsey. “Well, I am not forbidden to speak to strangers, my young friend, and I would very much like to make your acquaintance. My name is Madeline Fairbanks.”
The girl made an answering curtsey, her radiant smile now allowing Madeline to count her missing teeth and make an approximate guess at her age. “Pleased to make your aqu- acquain-tance, Miss Fairbanks,” she answered in the scripted way of a child using words she did not fully understand. “My name is….”
“Lizzy! Where did you go off to?” A young man now turned the corner of the building from where, Madeline guessed, the child had just come. He was striding quickly, his manner intimidating and agitated. He was peering right and left until his eyes lit on the girl and his face set into a look of great annoyance. “Lizzy!” he repeated as he drew closer, his voice growing more threatening. “I told you to stay with the coach and not to wander!”
Madeline’s protective instincts flared, and she stepped a little nearer to the child, perhaps intending to shield her from a less than amiable parent. The child, whose name apparently was Lizzy, looked up to him with complete unconcern.
“I did not wander, Uncle. I was following something. I think it was a robin, but I do not see it now. I have not gone far, Uncle- you see, the inn is just there.”
“Elizabeth,” the man clearly fought back his temper to keep his words civil, “your father may allow you to speak back to him in such a way, but I will not while you are under my care! Come, your sister is resting now, we must go!”
Madeline made a soft noise. Perhaps it was understandable that the man was flustered by his precocious and lively young charge, but it was more than a little mortifying that he had yet to even notice her, standing three feet away. She had not thought herself so invisible as that!
The man looked up to her quickly and blanched in horror. “Forgive me, Miss… er, I hope my niece did not trouble you!”
“Not at all,” she answered coolly. “I sometimes find children more amiable than their elders.”
The man grimaced, obviously understanding her meaning. He tugged his hat from his head and offered her a much-belated bow in greeting. “Edward Gardiner, at your service, Miss. My apologies again for just now. I was… well, in truth, I have no excuse.”
She lifted one expressive brow and the edge of her mouth tipped very slightly. “You are quite forgiven, Mr Gardiner. I have had occasion to learn before that the most sensible of people can appear quite unreasonable when trying to manage a child.”
A slow, hesitant smile began to grow on his face- and a rather pleasant face it was. At last he gave a light chuckle. “I see you have gotten to know my niece rather well already. Might… might I have the pleasure of your name, Miss…?”
“Fairbanks, Uncle!” Elizabeth spoke up pertly, happy to be of service. “Her name is Madeline Fairbanks, and is she not just lovely?”
Both parties reddened profusely. Madeline’s fingertips flew to her mouth and her eyes widened in embarrassment.
Mr Gardiner cleared his throat. Clearly he had little choice but to agree with his niece, so he smiled, nodded uncomfortably, and answered, “Yes, of course… I mean, it is very lovely to make your acquaintance, Miss Fairbanks. I am afraid we must be going, however. My brother-in-law is waiting for us.”
She drew an uncertain breath. “If you are going into that inn just there,” she nodded toward the back of the building, “that is my destination, as well.”
The man brightened in interest. His eyes revealed, far more than the words his niece had coerced from him ever could have, what his first impression of her truly was. He flushed shyly, perhaps wishing to escort her, but little Lizzy spared him the trouble of asking.
“We can walk you there, Miss Fairbanks!” she bubbled. Madeline found a small, somewhat sticky palm thrust into her own, and she had little choice but to fall into step with the pert young girl and her uncle.
Every great love has a beginning.
In Austen's Pride and Prejudice, we meet with perhaps the most sensible, caring relatives a lovelorn young woman could hope for: Mr and Mrs Gardiner. What is their story?
Edward Gardiner has just been refused by the lovely young woman he had intended to make his wife. Heartbroken and eager for a diversion, he accepts an invitation from his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, to accompany him along with his two eldest daughters to the north on family business. Gardiner's pleasure tour is interrupted, however, when his eldest niece falls ill and is unable to travel farther.
Stopping over in the scarcely remarkable village of Lambton, the men decide that Bennet must continue on, while Gardiner and the children remain. The only trouble is that Gardiner has not the least idea how he should care for one ailing niece and another who is ready to drive him to distraction... until he meets with Madeline Fairbanks.
Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don't ask).
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole's books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Goodreads Author Page
Amazon Author Page
The Courtship of Edward Gardiner
Blog Tour Schedule:
10/22: Review & Giveaway at Just Jane 1813
10/27: Review & Giveaway Savvy Verse & Wit
11/01: Excerpt & Giveaway at Half Agony, Half Hope
11/08: Guest Post & Giveaway So little time…
11/10: Review & Giveaway My Kids Led me Back to Pride and Prejudice
11/11: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
11/15: Review & Giveaway at My Vices and Weaknesses
11/17: Guest Post & Giveaway at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life
11/26: Excerpt & Giveaway at Margie’s Must Reads
11/30: Review & Giveaway at Diary of an Eccentric
12/01: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton
It's been my pleasure to have you visit again and I'm honored you wanted me to launch your blog tour. Thank you, and thank you also for telling us why you chose to write about the Gardiners. I found it fascinating to read your reasons. I loved your comment, 'Madeline is the beautiful vase left on the top shelf'. That was brilliant, as was your statement, 'Perhaps, somewhere in the forest, there still lives a unicorn'.
I'm so happy you chose to write about the Gardiners. Their story was delightful. (so were the nods to the original with hints of what is to come) I will be reading this again. I wish you much success with this novella. I look forward to seeing you here when you release another N&S or P&P variation You are always welcome.
Thank you, Rita Deodato, for setting up the tour. You did a fantastic job.
Thank you, Rita Deodato, for setting up the tour. You did a fantastic job.
It's giveaway time! Nicole Clarkston is offering one paperback of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner and the giveaway is international! That's wonderful news and we thank you, Ms. Clarkston. Please be sure to include your contact info when you leave a comment. Tell us what you think of the Gardiners. Who are your favorite minor characters? The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 26th of October. Good luck to all.