I want to thank Maria Grazia for hosting me on her blog for my new book, “Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets,” as she did last year for “Consequences.” To begin with, this novel is a variation on “Pride and Prejudice,” as were my previous two efforts, in that I try to portray what might have happened if a particular decision or even happened differently. After that point, I try to keep the characters as true to those Austen portrayed as possible. For example, I would have difficulty writing a variation in which Elizabeth Bennet married George Wickham; it just wouldn’t work for me, for my inner characterization of her would make such an event impossible. If she would refuse both Mr. Collins and Darcy, then I can conceive of no way she would ever marry Wickham. I know other authors have taken that path, and, if they made it work, they’re better writers than I am.
Another point is that this is a completely new novel, never published as fan fiction. In fact, I started writing it last winter (in 2014) and finished in late spring. The original genesis was a plot bunny that I had stored away in which E.B. winds up engaged to Darcy without in any way intending to do so. I was back in the bedroom with my wife, watching TV and idly looking over some story ideas to see if any of them could strike a chord of inspiration, when my eldest daughter came back to talk to me. She’s one of two orphan girls we adopted from China back in 2001 and 2005, and, while she’s scary smart in an academic way, she didn’t grow up in the same U.S.A. culture that I did, so there are still lots of things where she just has a different take on things than your average eighteen-year-old. Anyway, there was a story on the news about some outbreak of illness (this was WAY before all the Ebola stuff, remember), and Mikaelie commented, “At least I don’t have to worry about that, Dad, since I don’t get sick.”
Voila! There was a believable rationale for that old plot bunny where Elizabeth winds up engaged to Darcy. Since Elizabeth Bennet does not get sick either (she tends other people but she doesn’t fall ill), she might well, in a feverish haze, give Darcy a nod meaning, “Okay, I hear what you said . . . kind of, I think.” She doesn’t realize what she’s done as Darcy is filled with joy and Charlotte has been listening at the keyhole and sees a way to cement her friend’s good fortune. I loaded the plot bunny, started writing, and I was off to the races. Thanks to an idle comment from my left-brained daughter who is in college to become a Computer Engineer (and getting excellent grades, by the way) and is just a real joy in my life.
Of course, when I started writing, I wasn’t sure where all this was going to go as far as the plot goes. Unlike most of previous writing, I was writing chapters, starting at the beginning, faster than I could get the plot outlined. I did jump around some, such as writing the chapter where she tries to explain things to her insightful Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, and the explanation was made more difficult since Darcy had already gotten her father’s permission and informed his family while Elizabeth was still regaining her health. Breaking engagements was difficult, and she didn’t know what to do, so she started playing her cards close to her chest. There is a lot of confrontation and frank, painful disclosures and confessions in “Pride and Prejudice,” but the characters in my novel are virtually forced to be circumspect rather than forthright. That was what led to the working title of “Secrets,” which metamorphosed into “Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets” after my editor pointed out how many books on Amazon had the title of “Secrets,” with the only difference being the author’s name.
In addition to the trials and tribulations of Darcy and Elizabeth (but nothing like in “Consequences”! Honest! There’s some stress and worry, but no undue angst.) there are several subplots that somehow crept in, involving some matches between some unlikely characters. There’s also a character rehabilitation I thought never to do involving George Wickham. I won’t give away the plot too much, I think, if I simply say that it would take something traumatic to reform that scoundrel, and I did my best to provide the trauma—and had a lot of fun doing it (though it did take a considerable amount of research into areas of the Regency which don’t have a lot of detail preserved). And just to give fair warning, tying up all those loose ends took some time and some pages of text, so “Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets” comes in at a rather hefty 345 pages, including an Author’s Q&A section at the back. My editor suggested such a section for “Consequences,” and there were a number of topics to explain in PP&S (such as waltzing in the Regency, the author says, with a knowing smirk!). I read a number of websites that opined that a book that long in the Romance field was the kiss of death, but I hope they’re wrong. I’m rather proud of my work on this one, and I hope I can bring some enjoyment to those who read it. Thanks again to Maria, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
C. P. Odom
About the book
“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.”
It is always the completely unforeseen events that lead to the most unexpected consequences, and such is the case in this variation on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. One of the crucial points in Austen’s novel is Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s fiery and passionate refusal and denunciation of the equally passionate but infinitely more repressed Fitzwilliam Darcy. What might eventuate if the robustly healthy Elizabeth falls prey to illness for almost the first time in her life just when Darcy comes to call? Bemused by her illness, she hardly comprehends what Darcy is asking, and her simple nod of acknowledgment is misinterpreted as acceptance of his suit by a joyous Darcy. By the time Elizabeth regains her health, it seems that every one of her acquaintance and many outside of it accept that she has become engaged to the last man in the world she would ever have considered marrying. Can she openly demand her engagement to the amorous but prideful Darcy be broken, a course fraught with hazards in the social milieu of Regency England? In a maelstrom of confusion, choices have to be made and disclosures closely considered. Elizabeth knows that nothing in her life will ever be the same, and the consequences will likely spread further than she can imagine.