Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Rational Creatures...Caitlin Williams

The Rational Creatures Blog Tour stops by More Agreeably Engaged today and the spotlight is on the talented author, Caitlin Williams. It is such an honor to have Caitlin visit and tell us about her short story., but before we get to Caitlin's post and excerpt, here is a bit more about this anthology filled with stories by some fabulous authors!

Book Description
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser
CAITLIN WILLIAMS is an award-winning author of Ardently, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, When We Are Married, and The Events at Branxbourne, that all spin the plot of Pride and Prejudice around but keep the characters just the same. Originally from South London, Caitlin spent thirteen years as a detective in the Metropolitan Police but is currently on a break from Scotland Yard so she can spend more time at home with her two children and write. She now lives in Kent, where she spends a lot of time daydreaming about Mr. Darcy, playing with dinosaurs, and trying not to look at the laundry pile.
It is my pleasure to welcome Caitlin Williams, whose short story features Harriet Smith from Emma

Thank you, Janet, for hosting me at your lovely blog. I had the pleasure to write a story in Rational Creatures, that is based on Harriet Smith, a character that I find most intriguing. I can’t wait to read the comments from your readers!
The Rise and Fall, and levelling out of Harriet Smith, is a story
within a story in Emma. When I was asked to pen a tale in this anthology, I had
to consider her within the context of Austen’s 19
th Century England. Her Illegitimacy, though not an uncommon
circumstance at the time, would have been a strangulating force for any girl
hoping to marry well. While our dear author, and her creation Emma Woodhouse,
play with Harriet, her fate, if we are to be realistic, is never in doubt.
Snobbery still exists today and will never go away, but the actual
social boundaries, the invisible walls which stood tall in Austen’s day, have
crumbled away to almost nothing. For us, it can be hard to imagine the
difficulties Harriet would have faced. We live in a world where Megan Markle, a
divorced, American actress has married into the Royal Family. Welcomed
wholeheartedly, the new Duchess of Sussex is adored by the British public. In
2018, diversity was celebrated at the wedding of the year, and she and her
prince were woven together in a beautiful blend of modernity and tradition
Yet, if we go back only fifty years, we see a stark contrast in
the story of Princess Margaret. The Queen’s sister was faced with an almost
impossible choice when she fell in love with a divorced man, an employee even!
Rather than following her heart, which would have meant giving up her titles,
privileges and income, and living in exile from her family—Margaret forsook
Group Captain Peter Townsend. She remained Her Royal Highness Princess
Margaret, but many suggest it was a decision she bitterly regretted for the
rest of her stormy, turbulent life.
And, in the 1930’s, King Edward VIII had to abdicate his throne in
order to marry the woman he loved, another divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
So how difficult was life for Harriet Smith in the early 1800’s?
She would have lived by a set of incredibly rigid, unwritten rules.
Mr Knightley, older and more worldly-wise than Emma, is full of
caution in the novel. He warns Emma against matchmaking between Harriet and Mr
Elton. He knows the ambitious Mr Elton will never consider Harriet, and that
his tenant, Robert Martin, would make a far more suitable husband. Emma is too
carried away by her own fancies and convinced of her dubious talents to pay him
any heed. She gives not enough thought to social mores and prejudice, and
encourages Harriet to fall in love with the parson. Mr Knightley tells her it
is cruel, and he is right, because it is doomed.
In the hands of a lesser author this might have been a ‘rags to
riches’ tale, with Harriet Smith being the heroine; a sweet girl with a kind
heart who overcomes her humble beginnings to marry the rich landowner.
 Jane Austen, however, was cleverer than most, and perhaps also cynical
and sly, and what she gives us is a more believable tale, with a troubling
moral that is definitely not correct.
Having lived humbly and quietly, often in a kind of genteel
poverty, Jane Austen was mostly dependent on the charity of her relations, but
she was also connected, on her mother’s side, to high society. This gave her
the opportunity to see the world from all angles. Her novels are not simple
romances, or light comedies, they are important historical documents which give
us an invaluable understanding into Georgian country life.
So, in this very practical novel—written by the most rational
creature of them all—the undeserving, meddling Emma, ends up with the
swoon-worthy Mr Knightley, while Harriet seemingly has to settle for Robert
What Austen understood is that life is a series of compromises,
and that we fight constantly between our heads and hearts, between practicality
and desire. How often do we have to wash the dishes when we’d rather run among
the daisies? Nevertheless, I like to believe that Harriet did find happiness;
that her farmer became her prince, and her farmhouse was her palace.
Harriet was probably not very rational at all, even though she met
with a rational end. But because I’m more of a Harriet than a Jane, in my
story, her ending is a loving one too.
The reason for Robert Martin’s presence in the Knightley’s hall was made clear later when they were taking afternoon tea. Mr. Knightley, who had just arrived home, explained his brother had sent Mr. Martin to Town to deliver some papers. Mr. Martin had called at the house first but, upon being told Mr. Knightley was at his chambers, had gone there instead.
“Robert Martin is a level-headed, clever young man who deserves a great deal more than he has got,” Mr. Knightley said. “I think the young girl he sets his cap at will be very fortunate indeed.”
“Well, he has gained George’s good opinion,” Mrs. Knightley added. “He places a good deal of trust in him.” She poured her husband’s coffee. “Should we ask him to join us for dinner, do you think, before he returns to Highbury?”
“Oh, I am sure there is no need for that!” Harriet exclaimed before she could stop herself. “He would not expect to receive such notice from you.”
“No need for it, certainly,” Mr. Knightley replied, “but I did enjoy talking to him. Would you not like to see him, Harriet? He might give you news of all your friends in Highbury.” 
Mr. Knightley’s sardonic tone gave Harriet little clue as to whether he was serious or attempting to tease her. Was there a mischievous glint in his eyes, or had they just been caught by the late afternoon sun that streamed in through the windows? Its rays were bouncing off the crystal bowl that held the sugar lumps. 
Harriet put the biscuit she had been eating back on her plate, fearing she would not be able to swallow it. Her mouth had become dry, her appetite gone. 
She was suddenly lost in remembrances of the bright days she had enjoyed at the Martin’s farm. They were long summer days, yet they had flown quickly by, made shorter by wonderful company and a good deal of laughter. She thought of the time when they had spoken of books. Robert Martin had not mocked her for her taste in romantic novels. Instead, he had smiled shyly at her and told her that his land took up much of his time but that he would like to be better read. 
“It is not for me to say whether he should come or not. I should not decide it,” Harriet said quietly, realising she had left too long a pause, caused a gap in the conversation. “You must do what pleases you, Mr. Knightley.”
“But do you object to him, Miss Smith?” Mr. Knightley asked, leaning forward. 
“No,” she said. “I have not the least objection to Mr. Martin.” 
The problem was that he might have objections to her! But she did not say that, or that every one of his scruples were well justified. 
“Well, we had best ready ourselves for Astley’s, if we are to arrive in good time.” Mrs. Knightley got to her feet. 
Her hosts had kindly arranged some entertainment for Harriet, now that she was recovered. They were to go to the famous amphitheatre on Westminster Bridge Road to see the circus, the two eldest Knightley children accompanying them. 
It was the sort of outing that might have given Harriet great cause for excitement a year ago, but all pleasures were dull to her now. Flowers did not smell so sweet, colours were not so bright, and music not so uplifting.
Her encounter with Robert Martin that afternoon had further distressed her. She had run away from him, like a child. She ought to have been more civil and tried to express, in some small way, her regrets. Not because she wanted to bring on a renewal of his addresses—she did not deserve his attentions— but because she was truly sorry for any pain she had given him.
Besides, she had resolved to live a life of goodness and simplicity. She would not think of romance.
“Yes, let us go out” said Mr. Knightley, standing up beside his wife, “and consider Robert Martin no more. I shall not feel compelled to have him for dinner if Harriet does not like the idea. We shall send him back to Highbury hungry and never see him again.” 
But an hour or so later, they did see him again.


Rational Creature SUPER Giveaway: The Random Name Picker winner review all blog comments and select one winner from these blog stop comments during the tour for all 21 prizes: Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks), our bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle; #20, a brick in winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House; and #21, the Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook.

The giveaway ends November 15, 2018 and is open to international winners.

This sounds like such an awesome anthology. I look forward to reading all the stories. Thank you, Caitlin, for telling us a bit about Harriet and for sharing an excerpt. I did like it and am ready to read the rest of it. I'm happy to read that you gave Harriet a happy ending. I would like to think she had one too. Special thanks to Christina Boyd and Claudine Pepe for including me in this tour.


  1. Thank you, Janet, for hosting Caitlin Williams and featuring her Harriet Smith story in “Rational Creatures”. I adore this excerpt also because it shows the parallel story of Mr & Mrs John Knightley in London—Emma may have been the matchmaker in Highury but Mr John Knightley found entertainment creating situations and sitting back, seeing them play out. Caitlin’s story is brilliantly crafted with nuance. I loved the symbolism too.

    Thank you, Caitlin, for writing this lovely story while you have taken a break from publishing. It means so much to me.

    1. You are welcome, Christina. It was a pleasure featuring Caitlin and Harriet.

  2. Enjoyed the excerpt and am so glad to see another release in The Quill Collective series.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. This release sounds awesome, doesn't it!

    2. I hope you find time to read it!

  3. I've read this story (as well as all the others in this anthology), and Caitlin gives Harriet a delightfully Austenesque series of events leading to her betrothal. I just loved getting this insight into her character as well as the little peek at the marital relationship between George Knightley's brother John and Emma's sister Isabella. We even get more clues about Harriet's mysterious father. Such a wonderful story, Caitlin. Thanks, Janet, for sharing this with you readers!

    1. Thank you, Debbie. It was a pleasure to share this with my readers. I look forward to reading the rest of Harriet's story and the others as well. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. What a brilliant idea to allow Harriet an escape to Mr. John Knightley's house! (Seems to be a great place to go if one is mulling one's future, as Mr. George Knightley knows only too well!) I've been fortunate enough to read the entire story. For those who haven't, do so as soon as you can! Caitlin's lyrical prose allows Harriet Smith to come into her own.

    1. It is a brilliant idea,I agree! I look forward to reading the rest of the story too. It sounds awesome. Thank you for dropping by, Christina.

  5. Thanks for hosting Rational Creatures. I really hope you enjoy Harriet's happy ending.

    1. You are welcome, Caitlin. I was glad to host you and Harriet. I'm sure I will enjoy Harriet's happy ending. Thank you for giving her one. :)

  6. When this anthology was still being developed, Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose had said Harriet Smith was one of her favorites. I already had sixteen female characters assigned and thought adding another would just be opening myself up to even more female suggestions from others... (At 484 pages, I’m glad I pulled on the reins!) But after looking through the list of Austen females, decided to cut Mary Bennet and add Harriet Smith. Caitlin Williams, the pro she is, said she could certainly write Harriet too if I didn’t want Mary. Hope you like this story. It’s a favorite of mine.

  7. I love the cover and I grabbed this as soon as it launched. Congratulations to Christina and all the authors. You guys have a 'Best Seller' tag on Amazon. Woohoo! This was an amazing post and excerpt. I can't imagine what has happened to Harriet. Bless her heart. She needs to regain her confidence. Thanks for this post. Blessings on the continued success of this work.

  8. I have a soft spot for Harriet Smith, and her story was certainly in good hands with Caitlin Williams. Highly recommended!

  9. I enjoyed Caitlin's discussion of how the class lines influenced Austen and her own writing of Harriet's story. I think I was never more angry with Emma than the way she encourage Harriet without consideration.

    I thought Caitlin did fab bringing Harriet to life and showing her grow and independently arrive at her own choices.

    Thanks for hosting Rational Creatures, Janet. Such warm hospitality here. :)

    1. Psssst! Harriet has a happily ever after despite Emma;) ;)

    2. Caitlin's discussion was excellent.

      It was my pleasure to host. Thanks, Sophia Rose. I appreciate your kind words.

  10. This is the only story in the anthology I haven't read yet. Now I'm going to get on it!

  11. Oh I loved the excerpt and Harriet's reaction to Mr. Martin. It's also intriguing that you have her with the Knightley's! I'm looking forward to your twist in Harriet's tale.

    1. I think it’s a wonderful side trip from Highbury.

  12. Caitlin, what an interesting blog post. I never thought about how Harriet could have been a Cinderella but Jane Austen was more realistic.

    1. Hi Lona. Thanks for dropping by and telling us your thoughts.

  13. What a fascinating take! Looking forward to reading the story.

  14. Thanks for another great post! Very interesting.

  15. I love how Caitlin developed a relatively minor and briefly mentioned set of events from Emma into this lovely story. I almost could feel Harriet's pain from her toothache in the opening paragraphs! Harriet's development from being almost Emma's puppet (one thing that REALLY annoys me about Miss Woodhouse in canon) to becoming her own self, making her own decisions is fascinating to read.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Caitlin.

  16. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Anji. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  17. This is such a great book so far!!!

  18. This book looks really good. I can't wait to read it!
    dez3b at yahoo dot com

  19. I have a soft spot for Harriet, and look forward to reading this story!

  20. Well I was a little confused at the beginning of the excerpt, because I had forgotten about the other Mr Knightley. D'oh! Poor Harriet! And poor Mr Martin, because he really goes through unhappiness because of Emma's meddling.

  21. I love how Jane Austen (and Caitlin) made the realistic choice a happy one for Harriet :)

  22. I greatly enjoyed the excerpt, Caitlin. I am satisfied that you have given a happy conclusion to Harriet's story as she deserves all the happiness in the world after what she has been through. And the introduction to the excerpt is delightful to read.

  23. We have a winner for our #RationalCreatures blog tour giveaway!
    Congratulations, Schilds.
    Thank you to all who participated. (Please claim before November 20 or we will have to draw for another winner...and that would be disappointing for all...except the new winner.) https://www.thequillink.com/blog/rationalcreatures-epic-blog-tour-ends-announces-grandprize-winner