Saturday 10 February 2024



Dear readers,

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you a brand new Pride and Prejudice variation, "No Less Than Any Other," authored by MJ Stratton. This delightful novel presents an intriguing twist on the classic tale we all know and love. Are you ready to scroll down and discover more?

About the Book

Elizabeth Bennet is not the son and heir her mother wished, much to Mrs. Bennet’s despair. But all was not lost, for soon after her second daughter’s birth, Mrs. Bennet delivered a son. Tom Bennet, born just minutes after his sister, was their family’s savior from the moment he took his first breath.

Tom Bennet's peculiar nature soon sets him apart from others around him. His striking intelligence, key in aiding his family, paired with his many oddities, leaves those around him with differing opinions. None, though, are more dedicated to his well-being than his twin sister Elizabeth.

As the twins approach their majority, Mrs. Bennet grows frantic, determined that her girls must marry wealthy, eligible men to secure their future. However, the arrival of eligible suitors at Netherfield Park brings forth challenges and unexpected turns.

"No Less Than Any Other" is a sweet and clean Pride and Prejudice variation that promises an engaging journey through love, family, and societal expectations.

About the Author

MJ Stratton is a devoted admirer of Jane Austen and her works, having been introduced to "Pride and Prejudice" by a beloved aunt at the age of sixteen. Her passion for Austenesque fiction led her to embark on her own writing journey, which began in 2022. MJ balances her roles as a wife and mother with her love for writing, gardening, sewing, and various other hobbies. She resides with her husband and four children in the quaint, rural town where she grew up.

Read an Excerpt

May 1791
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

Thomas Bennet paced the hallway outside his wife’s chamber, anxiety filling his heart. It was too soon. Fanny was not meant to enter her confinement for another six weeks, or so the midwife had said. Yet there she was, behind the heavy oak door, in the midst of her travails. Jane, their precious two-year-old daughter, slept in the nursery upstairs, completely oblivious to the fact that she might wake in the morning a motherless child.

No, Thomas scolded himself. It would not do to court disaster. Many babies were born early. Indeed, perhaps the midwife had not accurately predicted when Fanny would deliver. Mrs. Jones had commented on Fanny’s girth more than once in the last few months. Yes, that was it. Fanny was not early at all. No, she was right on time.

Another scream rent the air and Thomas raked his hands through his hair. If his beloved wife were to die… It did not bear thinking of. Fanny was strong. She would make it through this ordeal just as easily as she had Jane’s.

Resigned to a long night, Thomas shuffled off to his own chamber where a glass of port awaited him. Meanwhile, in the mistress’s chambers, Fanny Bennet stood next to her bed, clinging to the bedpost. Sweat poured down her face and she cried out again.

“It is not time to push, Mrs. Bennet,” Mrs. Jones said calmly.

Oh, what do you know about it?” Fanny snapped. “You told me this child was not to be born until July! Well, it is not July! It is not even June. It is May!”

“There, there,” Mrs. Jones soothed. “These things can be hard to predict accurately.”

Fanny moaned again as her belly tightened once more. She had been at this for hours and she was so tired. Mrs. Jones led her to the bed where she could check her patient’s progress. 
"I believe it is time to get you to the birthing chair,” the old midwife said cheerfully.
Fanny groaned and allowed herself to be tugged upright and led to the chair across the room.              “Wait until I give you the word to push,” the midwife instructed.
Fanny nodded tiredly. This entire experience would be over shortly.
"Push, Mrs. Bennet!” cried the midwife.
Fanny bore down with all her might, and a few moments later, the lusty screams of her baby filled the air.
“It is a bonny lass, Mrs. Bennet,” Mrs. Jones cried in delight.
Fanny promptly burst into tears. “Another girl?” she cried in despair. 
“Where is the heir? Are you sure it is not a boy?”
“Quite sure,” Mrs. Jones replied brusquely.
 Fanny sobbed noisily, leaning over in the birthing chair as her body shook from exhaustion and disappointed hopes. Mrs. Jones attempted to help her up, but Fanny shoved her weakly away.              The maid was busy with the infant, who was still squalling across the room. Fanny felt rather irritated at the sound; could the child not cease its wailing even for a moment?
“Come, Mrs. Bennet,” Mrs. Jones said again. “Let us get you up. The afterbirth has yet to come.”              Fanny allowed herself to be raised and was rather taken aback when another pain wracked her abdomen.
“Oh,” she moaned. “I do not remember Jane hurting this much!”
Mrs. Jones’s brow creased in concern. “Let us go to the bed,” she said.
Once propped up on her pillows, Mrs. Jones examined Fanny more closely.
“I believe there is another, Mrs. Bennet,” the woman said after moments of agonizing silence.              “Another? Another what?” Fanny shrieked.
“Another babe,” Mrs. Jones replied. “It is close. We must get you back to the chair.”
"I do not think I can do it,” Fanny panted as another pain tore through her. “I am too weak. I shall die!”
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Jones answered brusquely. “You are a fine, strong woman, and you shall come through this admirably.”
“But what if it is another girl?” wailed Fanny, panting as she moved slowly to the birthing chair.              “Then it is another girl,” Mrs. Jones snapped. “Come now, you are a grown, married woman. Consider yourself blessed to be capable of bearing your husband’s children.”
 Fanny snapped her mouth shut. Mrs. Jones had no children of her own despite being married for nearly twenty years. 
"Now, when I tell you, push,” Mrs. Jones instructed her. Fanny steeled herself and waited.
"Push, Mrs. Bennet!” cried the midwife.
Fanny bore down again, screaming in pain. The lusty wails of a second child filled the room, and she collapsed in exhaustion. 
“You have a fine, strong son, madam,” Mrs. Jones said tenderly.
Fanny lifted her head weakly. “A son?” she sniffed. “Truly?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Jones replied. “And I must say, he has the handsome looks of his parents about him.”              “Twins! A boy and a girl,” Fanny sighed. The crying had ceased, and two more maids appeared in the room to assist their mistress to her bed. Clean linens replaced the soiled bedclothes, and a fresh nightgown was placed upon Mrs. Bennet. Before she knew it, Fanny was propped up on pillows and her babies were placed in her arms.
“You hold the girl for now, Mrs. Jones,” Fanny instructed. “I wish to look upon my son.”
 Mrs. Jones took the girl child from her mother, stroking the small patch of dark curls that adorned the top of her head. 
"I shall just inform Mr. Bennet,” she murmured.
Fanny paid her no mind so fixed was her gaze upon her infant son.
“We are saved,” she breathed. “We are saved from the entail.”
Thomas Bennet stood from his chair and moved to answer the knock at the door that stood between his chamber and his wife’s. He wrenched it open and found Mrs. Jones, the midwife waiting.
“Is my wife…?” he asked, trailing off.
“Mrs. Bennet is well,” Mrs. Jones replied. “She is with your son.”
“My son?” Thomas repeated stupidly. He looked down at the bundle the midwife held in her arms.
“Yes,” Mrs. Jones said. “And here is your daughter.” She handed Mr. Bennet the bundle in her arms with little ceremony. “Your wife has given you twins, sir,” she continued. “This little miss was born first, followed by a healthy little boy.” Thomas gazed adoringly at the tiny girl in his arms. “She is beautiful,” he breathed. “Thank you, Mrs. Jones.”
The woman gave him a small smile. “Your wife is ready to see you,” she said by way of reply.
Thomas nodded and followed Mrs. Jones out of his chamber and to the mistress’s suite.
Fanny sat in the bed, propped up on pillows, rocking another baby. Loud, demanding screams filled the room. Fanny looked up anxiously.
“I cannot get him to stop,” she fretted. “He will not eat. What could be wrong, Mr. Bennet?”
 “Perhaps he needs his sister,” Thomas replied. “They have been together these many months. Mayhap he misses her.”
 “Nonsense,” Fanny protested weakly. 
“A baby cannot differentiate between such things.” She rocked the child harder as if hoping that the movement would quiet him.               
“It is worth a try,” Thomas said shrugging. He climbed onto the bed next to his beloved wife and slid his own wrapped bundle toward hers. A small hand snaked out of the blanket in his arm, grasping for something. As soon as his daughter made contact with her brother, the lad quieted.
“Would you look at that?” the midwife remarked.
“It is rather remarkable, is it not?” Thomas agreed. “What shall we name this pair?”
“Our son must be named for you, of course,” Fanny was quick to say. “Thomas Bennet. We might call him Tom or Tommy while he is young.”
“And our daughter?” Thomas asked.
Fanny shrugged beside him. “I do not have a preference,” she said shortly.
Thomas blinked in surprise. “I would have thought you would wish a say in her name,” he said.
“She ought to have been another boy,” Fanny huffed. “Then we would have an heir and a spare, and Longbourn would be secure.”
“But she is not a boy, and I am pleased to have another daughter,” Thomas replied.
“Then you may name her,” Fanny snapped. “I am tired, and I do not wish to be bothered with such trivial decisions.”
 Thomas felt a stab of hurt. How could Fanny say such a thing? Any children they had were a blessing, boy or girl. Unwilling to distress his exhausted wife, he kissed her brow.
“We shall name her Elizabeth,” he told her. “For my mother.”
“Very well,” Fanny agreed. “Now, I wish to sleep. Elizabeth can go off to the nursery with the wet nurse. I wish for little Tommy to stay here with me.”
Thomas’s eyes widened in disbelief. His wife’s delight in having an heir was understandable but the outright disinterest she was showing toward little Elizabeth was disconcerting. Nevertheless, he nodded and climbed out of the bed.
“I shall let you rest now,” he said, kissing her brow again. Still holding his tiny daughter in his arms, he left the room.
Elizabeth did not go to the nursery, however. Thomas instructed a maid to bring the cradle down and place it in a room across the hall. The wetnurse was soon installed there with Thomas’s new daughter, where she would be close at hand should Fanny need her aid with little Tommy.
              It was not long before Tommy’s wails could be heard from the mistress’s chambers yet again. They persisted despite the wet nurse attempting to feed him. It was not until Elizabeth was once again snuggled next to her brother that Tommy fell into an exhausted sleep.
             The household soon learned that young Master Bennet did not like to be parted from his twin for very long. A new cradle was constructed, specially designed to allow the two infants to sleep beside each other. Fanny was not best pleased with the arrangement; she wished to keep her son close and still seemed to have no interest in her daughter. Thomas continued to justify his wife’s behavior, believing that she would eventually bond with their second child.
              Jane was fascinated by the new additions to their household and quickly decided that the twins were her babies. The eldest Bennet child was quite serene for a two-year-old and proved to be a great help when it came to caring for her little brother and sister.              
Fanny’s antipathy toward Elizabeth did not ease as the months passed. Thomas watched his wife with concern. It was not…normal… for a woman to have such unnatural feelings toward her child. When Thomas tried to address it, Fanny would lash out in anger and then descend into sobs. He soon learned that the subject of Elizabeth was not one to be broached with his wife. Instead, he sought to fill the gap in his child’s life that was left by her mother. It did not help matters that the Bennet heir preferred Elizabeth’s company to anyone else’s. Tommy did not like to be held or hugged; only Elizabeth’s touch was welcomed and sought by the little boy.
              Fanny’s disposition toward Elizabeth grew more resentful when Lizzy consistently progressed faster than her brother. Lizzy walked early at just seven months old while Tommy took much longer and was nearly a year and a half before he began to toddle about. Lizzy also began speaking before the twins’ first birthday. Tommy stubbornly refused to utter even a word, and when he had yet to speak on his third birthday, Fanny’s worry for her son compounded.

              “What if he is mute?” she demanded one day.

              “Tommy shows all the signs of being an intelligent child,” Thomas said attempting to calm his agitated wife.

              “If he cannot speak, how is he to run this estate when you are dead?” Fanny protested.

              “Perhaps he is simply not ready to speak,” Thomas reasoned.

              “What child have you ever known that does not speak by the time they are three?” Fanny asked. “He shall be four in May. Why, even Mary, who is only just two, says more than he does.”

              “Lizzy speaks very well,” Thomas reasoned. “Tommy is very close to his sister. He will pick up the skill from her.”

              “Elizabeth should be the mute one,” Fanny grumbled. “The girl will not cease speaking for anything.”

              “Such a thing can only benefit her twin brother,” argued Mr. Bennet. “Tommy’s eyes sparkle with understanding when we speak to him. He listens intently when I read to him, and he can, within reason, inform us of his basic wants and needs. I do not doubt that he will soon match his sisters in their progress, if not exceed them.”

              “If you are wrong, Mr. Bennet, it will mean our future security,” insisted Fanny. “Your cousin Collins was not best pleased when you wrote him of our son’s birth. If Tommy turns out to be an idiot, Collins will petition to have us thrown from our home the minute you are in the ground!”

              “That is simply not possible,” Thomas insisted, feeling his temper thinning. “As long as Tommy lives to reach his majority, the entail will end with him. You shall not be thrown from your home. Since Tommy is a healthy child; there is no need for concern.”

              “I am sure it is easy for you to be so sanguine about it, given you will not be alive to experience the genteel poverty such an event would subject upon us!” screeched Fanny. “My worries are justified and valid. Nothing in this life is certain, except death.”

              “My dear Fanny,” sighed Thomas, “I swear to you that I shall prepare for the possibility that you shall not be able to call Longbourn your home upon my demise. There is no need to worry yourself into a fit of nerves.”

              “There is always a need to worry, Mr. Bennet,” Fanny sniffed. She said nothing more but rose from her seat and glided as gracefully from the room as her expectant state would allow.

Prepare to be transported to the enchanting world of Jane Austen with a fresh perspective and a compelling narrative that will keep you eagerly turning the pages. Stay tuned for more updates and insights from My Jane Austen Book Club.

Warm regards,
Yours Truly


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