Very little is known about the young man that Jane Austen met during a seaside holiday in 1800. Her sister was later to say that she believed this young man was falling in love with Jane and was someone she felt was truly worthy of her sister. What transpired that summer? Perhaps it happened this way …
Jane begins her search for love with giddy optimism, but her first encounter proves devastating. The young Irishman who captured her heart is convinced by his family that marrying a penniless clergyman’s daughter would be a terrible mistake. Jane resolves never again to succumb to false hope, romantic delusions, and pathetic heartbreak.
Lieutenant Frederick Barnes is on medical leave from the Royal Navy. By the time he crosses paths with Jane, she has lost her faith in love and is determined to protect her heart at all costs.But the Lieutenant is captivated and equally determinedto break through her defenses. Jane must battle between what she knows and what she feels. What will happen to her heart if she is wrong again?
Read an excerpt
It was after one o’clock in the morning when I climbed out of bed, pulled back the curtains for moonlight, and began to dress. The rustling awoke Cassie. I told her to return to sleep, but that the warm air was too much for me. If I could only steal down to the waves, and feel the cool water wash over my ankles, I should cool down immediately.
“You cannot be serious. To go down to the beach? At this hour?” Cassie inquired in disbelief.
“Go back to sleep. I shall return very shortly.”
Of course, she did not return to sleep. She scrambled out of her bed and into her clothes, fussing at me all the while. And she quietly followed me out of the house and down to the beach … as I fully intended for her to do.
Thank goodness Mr. Shaw’s house was situated so close to the water. The night air had such a cooling effect, that immersion in the water could no longer exactly be regarded as a necessity. But this was no time for half measures. The waves beckoned and the full moon revealed a deserted landscape. What unparalleled opportunity; we were utterly alone! I made haste to pull my clothes off, amidst Cassie’s horrified protests.
“Jane! Jane! You were only to dip your ankles in. Have you gone mad?” she pleaded.
“Tonight, the sea belongs to you and me alone, Cassie. But we must take advantage, for this circumstance will never come again.”
I ran into the waves, my loud squeals buried by the roar of the waves. It was an extraordinary peak of sensation. The cold water was exhilarating, but the freedom was an even more potent drug.
“Jane, you must not go so far in. You could drown.”
“And when I do, the entire family will wonder why you did not trouble yourself to pull me to safety,” I goaded.
To underscore my words, I allowed the next incoming wave to knock me to my knees. By the time I righted myself, I was rewarded with a view of my alarmed sister scrambling out of her dress. I greeted her pained, cautious entry with a series of drenching splashes. Which of course, she could only answer with frantic retaliation. Her screams and laughter were even louder than mine. It was such a fine and keen moment of experience; I knew the memory would be with us for years to come. And never had the advantages of spinsterhood been so fully apparent. For what husband would have allowed such activities? That night, we floated in the waters of freedom and contentment. And envied no one.
My spirits were fully rejuvenated the next day as we awaited the arrival of the lieutenant and his brother. The giddiness of our moonlight adventures could overpower any discomfort or annoyance that the lieutenant could inflict.
Our guests arrived amidst a flurry of introductions and pleasantries. The medical expertise of Dr. Barnes provided a great fascination for his elderly hosts: a future resource for the daily aches and pains of advanced years. He was normally situated in Portsmouth, tending primarily to naval casualties, and had only stolen away for the occasion of his brother’s convalescence.
Cassie had just left the room to get water and refreshments when an innocent commentary from Mr. Shaw on the fine weather and full moon of the previous night turned the conversation down an alarming path.
“Astronomy is a great passion with me and the stars were magnificent last night,” the lieutenant enthused.
“You have a telescope, then?” my father inquired.
“A very powerful one,” he replied.
His brother confessed that while he had some small interest in the stars, it was not sufficiently strong to keep himself awake until two o’clock in the morning, no matter how often the lieutenant had requested his company.
“No matter. I had all the company I needed last night,” the lieutenant announced mysteriously.
“Well, I know we cannot suspect Aunt Doherty. So where did you obtain company at that hour of the night?” Dr. Barnes challenged.
“As it happens, I chanced to cast my lens over to the ocean. And I was rewarded by the sight of two of the most beautiful seals I have ever seen. Playing delightfully on the beach.”
He looked me straight in the eye and added, “Females, I believe.”
“Mr. Shaw marveled, “You could tell at that distance?? That is a wondrous lens.”
No. No. No. No. No. No. No. It cannot be. I refused to believe it. I had done nothing so terrible in life that I should be thus punished. It was a misunderstanding, surely. A concoction of my overheated imagination. He certainly must be referring to the sight of two actual seals, and not two naked sisters who were frolicking in complete, total, absolute, and utter privacy. Heinous villain! The little smile lingering on the corner of his lips left no hope, but pointed to the bleakest interpretation. Oh, no. I am ever armed to do battle, but … what of my poor sister?
“Pray, do not mention this incident to Cassandra, as she is exceedingly fearful of seals, and the very mention of them would induce a trauma,” I warned threateningly.
“Dear, dear,” Mr. Shaw worried.
I continued, “All earthly and heavenly justice would demand the most unimaginable punishment to anyone who would purposely upset as dear a soul as our Cassie.”
“Jane!” my mother admonished.
Lieutenant Barnes soothed, “Ma’am, you are assured of my silence.”
Whereupon Cassie rejoined us and great efforts were made by all to redirect the conversation into safe and mundane territories. Another half hour and Mr. Shaw was obliged to excuse himself, for he had a regularly scheduled walk with his friend Mr. Maxwell every afternoon.
“Perhaps we shall see those seals along the beach,” he mused.
Then he remembered himself, and patted Cassie on the shoulder with a penitent sigh. “I’m so sorry, my dear. I quite forgot.”
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About the author
Carolyn V. Murray had The Odyssey read to her before she was even in kindergarten. Then spent her childhood buried in books, and only came up for air long enough to run to the library and make her next selection. It would be many years before she realized that she could write stories of her own.
Her "9-5" life included the good (teaching) the bad (working in casinos) and the ugly (catering in an electric clown suit.) Her writing path took a long detour into the pursuit of screenwriting, where she got selected as a Walt Disney Writing Fellow, had four original screenplays optioned, and wrote one freelance script that made it to the TV screen.
But these days, she's a lot more excited about creating the kinds of books that sustained her childhood. She is drawn to history, biography, love stories, and travel. Jane by the Sea is her first novel.