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I was very kindly invited to guest blog on Book Nerd Extraordinaire Blogspot. Here’s what Jaime Huff has to say about Willoughby’s Return followed by my guest post.

‘I have been enjoying the selection of Jane Austen sequels, and Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe is right there leading the pack. Marianne, in my opinion, was spoiled, vivid and full of life and Jane Odiwe has maintained that spirit as she brings us to Marianne’s life and her marriage to Colonel Brandon…”Willoughby’s Return” has maintained the spirit and life of it’s predecessor, “Sense and Sensibility” and was such a strong, flowing read and I would definitely recommend this to any Sense and Sensibility fan who has wondered “well, what then?”‘ Jaime Huff

Jaime, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog to talk about my book, Willoughby’s Return. I thought I’d talk a little about Mr. Willoughby, that bad boy we find hard to resist!

Have you ever felt an irresistible attraction toward someone, and fallen so passionately in love with a guy that he made you throw all caution to the wind, so that your behaviour became reckless and even a little wild? In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne’s relationship with John Willoughby escalates quickly into a whirlwind romance, so rapidly that the gossips assume they are engaged. Willoughby, dashing and handsome, is the man of her dreams – he enjoys poetry, music, and loves to dance. Marianne thinks she has met her perfect match until he breaks her heart. Scandal surrounds him, not only does he leave her for a woman with a fortune, but she finds out he is not the man she thought. Later, she is able to forgive him, especially when he tells her sister that he is full of remorse and regret; Marianne will forever be his secret standard of perfection. He has realised, too late, just how much he loves her, but by then Marianne has moved on and fallen in love with Colonel Brandon, an older, but much wiser, and kinder gentleman, far more suited to our heroine.
When I wrote Willoughby’s Return, I was full of questions about the ending of Jane Austen’s book – I couldn’t help wondering what might happen if John Willoughby came back to the neighborhood, as it is likely that he will inherit his benefactor’s grand house, Allenham Court.

Has Marianne really buried all her former feelings for Willoughby who once claimed her heart, and who has publicly made no secret of the fact that he still admires her. If they are thrown together in circumstances neither of them can avoid, what will happen? Will Marianne’s love for Colonel Brandon be tested?
Here’s an extract from the book. Marianne has met Willoughby again, and memories she thought were gone will not go away!

Seeing Willoughby again had disturbed her mind, and now she was travelling through countryside she could only ever associate with him. Pulling down the window to breathe the cool air, she could not help being reminded of a time, five years ago, of a season just like this one. She tried to dismiss her thoughts but they crowded in on her until she was forced to remember a particularly golden, autumnal day, when she had first been taken to see Allenham Court, which John Willoughby would inherit one day. The dwelling he had hinted would also be her future home was the place where he had first stolen more than a lock of her hair.

It was at his suggestion that he show her over the house. They travelled alone in an open carriage, bowling at speed down the green lanes, so fast that Marianne was forced to cling to his arm for fear of being thrown abroad.

He was so pleased and proud to show it off. “Do you like the house?” he asked, taking her hand and helping her down from the carriage. “Would it suit Miss Dashwood to live in a house like this?”
Marianne’s excitement knew no bounds. “This house would suit anyone, Mr. Willoughby,” came her fervent response, gazing up at the charming edifice.

He took her into the garden first. They strolled away from the house and into a leafy walkway. The fragrance of damp earth and the musk scent of leaves like amber jewels above her head in the arbour were smells she would associate forevermore with those feelings of longing and love. He crooked her arm in his and they wandered through thorned archways, gleaming scarlet with rose hips, embroidered with the lace of jewelled spider’s webs. It seemed like a dream come true to Marianne, and the thought that this might be her retreat some day brought on such ecstasies of happiness that she was lost for words. They walked in silence. All she heard were the leaves rustling under her feet, the birds in the trees calling out to one another. Her only desire was to link his arm in hers, and to feel the nearness of his face, his breath so close as to stir her curls. She could not have imagined greater felicity.
After going all round the grounds he took her inside. They crept about for fear of disturbing Mrs. Smith, who slumbered in her chair in the drawing room, quite unaware of their presence. He took her hand as they crept up the stairs with stifled giggles. The ancient oak door opened with a creak into a darkened room, the heavy, old-fashioned drapes drawn against the morning sun to protect the furniture.
Marianne’s eyes were not able to adjust to the gloom after the brightness outside. “I cannot see,” she whispered.

He caught both of her hands in his and whispered in reply, “Let me be your guide, Miss Marianne.”

© Jane Odiwe, Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak at Willoughby’s Return! Now tell me—who’s your favorite Austen hero and why?

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In a romantic frame of mind today – here’s a description of young love at its most besotted! The photo is from the film Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet (a perfect Marianne) and Greg Wise (Emma Thompson, you are such a lucky girl!) as Willoughby.

When he was present, she had no eyes for any one else. Everything he did was right. Everything he said was clever. If their evenings at the park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to anybody else. Such conduct made them of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.

Mrs. Dashwood entered into all their feelings with a warmth which left no inclination for checking this excessive display of them. To her it was but the natural consequence of a strong affection in a young and ardent mind.

This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was devoted to Willoughby, and the fond attachment to Norland which she brought with her from Sussex, was more likely to be softened than she had thought it possible before, by the charms which his society bestowed on her present home.

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Here are two Mr Willoughbys for your delight! Greg Wise and Dominic Cooper star in recent productions – I wonder which was your favourite?
After Marianne’s accident when Willoughby scoops her up into his arms and carries her home the whole family are eager to learn about the handsome man who has behaved so gallantly. I love the way Jane Austen only gives us tantalising glimpses at Willoughby’s character through Sir John Middleton’s eyes. Willoughby is a good huntsman and rider and as far as Sir John is concerned there is no higher recommendation than a young man who enjoys sport and can dance all night. Of course hearing that Willoughby dances with elegance and spirit makes him all the more interesting to Marianne!

Sir John called on them as soon as the next interval of fair weather that morning allowed him to get out of doors; and Marianne’s accident being related to him, he was eagerly asked whether he knew any gentleman of the name of Willoughby at Allenham.

“Willoughby!” cried Sir John; “what, is he in the country? That is good news, however; I will ride over to-morrow, and ask him to dinner on Thursday.”

“You know him then,” said Mrs. Dashwood. “Know him! to be sure I do. Why, he is down here every year.”

“And what sort of a young man is he?” “As good a kind of fellow as ever lived, I assure you. A very decent shot, and there is not a bolder rider in England.”

“And is that all you can say for him?” cried Marianne, indignantly. “But what are his manners on more intimate acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents and genius?”

Sir John was rather puzzled.

“Upon my soul,” said he, “I do not know much about him as to all that. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow, and has got the nicest little black bitch of a pointer I ever saw. Was she out with him to-day?”

But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the colour of Mr. Willoughby’s pointer than he could describe to her the shades of his mind.

“But who is he?” said Elinor. “Where does he come from? Has he a house at Allenham?”

On this point Sir John could give more certain intelligence; and he told them that Mr. Willoughby had no property of his own in the country; that he resided there only while he was visiting the old lady at Allenham Court, to whom he was related, and whose possessions he was to inherit; adding, “Yes, yes, he is very well worth catching, I can tell you, Miss Dashwood; he has a pretty little estate of his own in Somersetshire besides; and if I were you, I would not give him up to my younger sister in spite of all this tumbling down hills. Miss Marianne must not expect to have all the men to herself. Brandon will be jealous, if she does not take care.”

“I do not believe,” said Mrs. Dashwood, with a good humoured smile, “that Mr. Willoughby will be incommoded by the attempts of either of my daughters towards what you call catching him. It is not an employment to which they have been brought up. Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich. I am glad to find, however, from what you say, that he is a respectable young man, and one whose acquaintance will not be ineligible.”

“He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived,” repeated Sir John. “I remember last Christmas, at a little hop at the Park, he danced from eight o’clock till four, without once sitting down.”

“Did he indeed?” cried Marianne, with sparkling eyes, “and with elegance, with spirit?”

“Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert.”

“That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.”

“Aye, aye, I see how it will be,” said Sir John, “I see how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now, and never think of poor Brandon.”

“That is an expression, Sir John,” said Marianne warmly, “which I particularly dislike. I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and ‘setting one’s cap at a man,’ or ‘making a conquest,’ are the most odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity.”

Sir John did not much understand this reproof; but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied, –

“Aye, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ankles.”

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It’s always an exciting moment when an author sees her new ‘baby’ go up on Amazon. The cover isn’t there yet but I know the wonderful designers at Sourcebooks are on the case! Willoughby’s Return is a sequel to Sense and Sensibility which is one of my favourite Austen novels. I’ve always wondered what might have happened to the Dashwood sisters after their marriages, and in particular how Marianne might have fared. In Sense and Sensibility Marianne has her heart broken by Mr Willoughby, her first love, but later finds true and lasting love with Colonel Brandon. Mrs Brandon is a passionate woman who gives her heart freely and I’m sure has found her equal in Colonel Brandon who despite his grave exterior has enough qualities and interests to satisfy his new wife – he is not only rich and gentlemanly, but he has proved his love for Marianne and he loves music and poetry as much as she! Elinor Dashwood, Marianne’s sister, is also at hand having married Edward Ferrars who has become the new rector at Delaford Parsonage on the Brandon’s estate in Dorset.
A happy ending for all concerned then? Of course, if you love to write Jane Austen sequels then a happy ending is guaranteed, there could be no alternative, but I had several questions about the Brandons that I needed to satisfy which is one of the reasons I had such fun writing this book. Although the Brandons have found happiness at last, I think their pasts are bound to catch up with them one way or another. Characters like Mr Willoughby, Marianne’s first love, and Eliza Williams, the daughter of Brandon’s ward are re-introduced into my book, Willoughby’s Return, a tale of almost irresistible temptation. Margaret Dashwood, the youngest daughter is of an age to be going to balls and looking for partners and her story weaves in and out of the others. I really enjoyed writing Mrs Jennings’s character and the Steele sisters. Lucy Steele is of course married now to Robert Ferrars. There is more information on my website as well as an extract from my new book which will be released in November.

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