What will happen to the Longbourn family when Mr. Bennet dies? - seeing that his estate is entailed away from the female line. The question was first posed by Jane Austen herself 200 years ago, in the opening chapter of Pride and Prejudice, and it’s still hanging there unanswered. Shannon Winslow settles the matter once and for all in this next installment of her P&P saga. Return to Longbourn picks up the story a few years after the close of The Darcys of Pemberley, and it centers on Mary, Kitty, and the new heir to Longbourn (the unappealing Mr. William Collins having met with a premature end in the earlier book).
With Mr. Tristan Collins on his way from
to claim his property, Mrs. Bennet hatches her plan. The heir to Longbourn
simply must marry one of her daughters. Nothing else will do. But will
it be Mary or Kitty singled out for this dubious honor? When the gentleman in
question turns out to be quite a catch after all, the contest between the
sisters is on. Which of them will be the next mistress of
Longbourn? Or will the dark horse in the race win out in
the end? America
, and the rest of the Pride and
Prejudice cast are back as the socially awkward Mary emerges from the
shadows to take center stage in this captivating chapter of the Bennet family’s
“A lot of us have a secret soft spot for Mary, and I believed she might have the hidden makings of a heroine. Now, in Return to Longbourn, we learn what really makes her tick. Find out if Mary is destined to be a governess forever, or if she overcomes the misfortune of being ‘plain’ to discover love and her own happy ending.” - Shannon Winslow
Excerpt from Return to Longbourn
Mary and Kitty exchanged a speaking look. They had already had a month’s worth of Sundays on the topic of Mrs. Bennet’s “plan.” After her husband’s sudden demise, she had wasted no time in convincing herself that the heir to Longbourn would prove to be a single man of a most eligible aspect. To her way of thinking, it immediately followed that he must be in want of a wife, and that either Mary or Kitty ought to have him. By all that was natural and just, Mr. Tristan Collins was the rightful property of the one or other of her daughters.
“You assume far too much, Mama,” Mary observed when the plan first came to light. “He may not even be single. As Mr. Bingley said, he is a man of thirty and has likely taken a wife by now.”
“What? Marry an American! Have you lost your senses? From what I hear, there is nobody there but heathens and savages. What proper English gentleman would stoop so low? No, mark my words. He left
without a wife, and he shall surely return the same way. That is where you come in, Kitty.” England
“Me?” Kitty exclaimed with a violent start. “Why must I be the one who secures him, Mama? Mary is older and therefore has the higher claim.”
“Yes, why must it be Kitty?” echoed Mary, hardly knowing why she said it.
It had then come out that Mrs. Bennet, having clearly consigned her elder daughter to the shelf, thought the younger, prettier one the only credible prospect for catching Mr. Collins. “Consider, Mary,” she concluded, “if your sister can get him, then you and I will always have a home here at Longbourn. It is the best solution for us all; of that I am perfectly persuaded. It is unlucky, however, that we should be in mourning, for black is not very becoming, even on you, Kitty. Still, in another month, I think you girls may safely moderate your dress. That should do nicely. Of course the wedding will have to wait until a full year has elapsed, but that can be no great hardship I daresay.”
It had since that day been quite a settled thing in Mrs. Bennet’s mind, and every week since had brought forth from her lips further discourse on how her plan might best be accomplished. Indeed, her daughters began to dread every mention of Mr. Tristan Collins’s name. However, all their considerable disinclination for the subject was insufficient to prevent its being canvassed again and again by their mother. Like a tune lodged firmly in her head to where she could think of nothing else, the tired refrain came out once more that Sunday in May. “Yes, if only my plan for Kitty and Mr. Collins might succeed,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kitty impatiently awaited the opportunity to set her own ideas at work, ideas that were sure to sound a note of discord against her mother’s unremitting theme. Although marriage was always her object, according to Kitty’s way of thinking, being wed to anyone by the name of Collins could not possibly be agreeable.
Author Shannon Winslow specializes in writing fiction for the fans of Jane Austen, with three novels and one short story published to date. Her two sons now grown, she lives with her husband in the log home they built south of
Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio, facing . Mt. Rainier
Ms. Winslow’s books are available in paperback, Nook, and Kindle at online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble).