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Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

IMG_2934 Happy Valentine’s Day!

We’re celebrating over at Austen Variations with some writing – excerpts from our books and a poem by Diana Birchall, plus there are links to authors’ websites for their special contributions!

Here’s an excerpt from Project Darcy which follows on from my piece at Austen Variations – I hope you enjoy it. Jane Austen and her friend, Tom Lefroy, are falling in love at the Manydown Ball!

heart2My spirits were dancing in silent rapture just as much as my feet when Tom escorted me to the dance floor. I think something of the joy we felt on the occasion pervaded the whole room like the fragrance lingering on the air as the atmosphere lightened. There was laughter and movement and flurries of white muslin as dashing young men spun their partners round, satin slippers kicking up the chalk. As the musicians played faster the handclaps and boot stomping grew louder. Everywhere looked a blaze of colour and sparkle under glittering chandeliers as the dancers skipped and hopped, galloping down the set to reach their place in time. It was wonderful to feel his hand in mine, to catch his eye, and to have his fingers linger in the small of my back like a caress.

By the time the supper bell rang, we were all starving hungry. Such a spread, like a king’s feast, was laid out on the dining table. My brother James carved the turkey with great perseverance, whilst Henry made it his job to help all the young ladies. He was on fine form and had encouraged his brother to dance every dance. Catherine and Alethea exchanged smiles with me. I knew Catherine would tease me about Tom as soon as she had the chance. Catherine’s brother Harris was helping James. He was growing up, and looked quite the young gentleman in his evening attire. I saw him look up and catch my eye. He was very shy, but I knew that he liked me. Knowing that I was one of the few people he preferred to talk to, I gave him my best smile back again.

‘Come on, Jane,’ whispered Tom, ‘surely there’s a corner where we can sit without the whole world attending to our every word.’

‘Tom Lefroy, you will have people talking about me, if they are not already, but there is a little place in the greenhouse where we might find a seat.’

I led him from the room and along the corridor. Everyone was so busy eating, drinking and swapping gossip that I was certain we would not be missed, but I knew we should not be long. At the back of my mind, a voice told me I was behaving badly but it felt we were the only two people in the whole world who mattered. We abandoned our plates and glasses, and ran tiptoeing, hand in hand, as soon as we were out of sight. Amongst the Persian orange trees and exotic plants, I found my rustic bench, a favourite spot where I often took a book when staying with my friends. Screened by greenery, we could not be seen. The space was a cosy one, warm from the glow of candles set in coloured lamps that lent a magical glow to the darkness of the interior.

‘Thank you for making this Christmas visit so enjoyable,’ said Tom, turning to face me. ‘I must admit that I was truly dreading being away from my family.’

‘I, too, have enjoyed every minute of your company … even when you were behaving like an arrogant coxcomb.’

‘You wound me, Miss Austen, and in more ways than you will ever know.’

I fiddled with my reticule and thought of the picture hidden inside. ‘You will have to go away soon, I think.’

Tom nodded. ‘I have to study, and I have a long way ahead of me before I shall be started in my chosen career.’

‘And I suppose you will not stop at being a mere lawyer. I can see you as a judge, Tom, with a long white wig on your head looking rather stern.’

Tom threw back his head and laughed. ‘If my Uncle Benjamin has anything to do with it, you’re right. He is my sponsor and I do so hope to make him proud. I wish to do the best for my family. With so many children, you know yourself, money is stretched to its limits.’

images ‘I wish you weren’t going away,’ I said. The words were out, and the secrets of my heart were unleashed. It was too late to go back.

‘But, I will go and you’ll soon forget me. It’s probably for the best, you know. Besides, you have so many ardent suitors I could not flatter myself that you would wish to confine yourself to me alone.’

He took up my hand between two of his own and turned it, as if studying my fingers before entwining his in mine and holding them up to the curve of his mouth, pressing his lips against the kid leather. I wanted to feel his mouth on mine, and I knew I might never have another moment so exquisitely right.

‘Kiss me,’ I dared to say.

‘Jane … we should not.’

I heard his words but I did not believe them. I tried again. ‘Do you not wish to kiss me, Mr Lefroy?’

Tom stroked the flesh exposed above my wrist where he hooked a finger beneath the buttoned opening of my glove. ‘Jane, it’s not that … but I do not think kissing you is a good idea.’

‘It would just be a kiss between friends. I am always kissing Catherine and Alethea. It would signify nothing more than a seal to friendship.’

Tom shook his head. ‘Oh, Jane, you have no idea how much I’ve dreamed of kissing you, and it would be a terrible thing if I did.’

‘I don’t understand. If we both wish it, why is it so wrong?’

Tom gazed into my eyes and I saw his anguish. ‘Because I do not trust myself to behave like a gentleman.’

‘Kiss me, Tom, or I will kiss you.’

His hand caressed my face and a finger traced my mouth before he placed his lips on mine so gently that tears filled my eyes. I touched his cheek, threaded my fingers through his hair, and felt our lips and our breath join as one. I fell into his arms and he drew me closer with kisses of love and tenderness.

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here is a snippet from Willoughby’s Return. I wanted this book to be as much Margaret’s story as Marianne’s and I thought it high time she started to enjoy herself by attending balls and meeting young men. Colonel Brandon’s sister and family have recently returned to Whitwell and his nephew, Henry Lawrence, back home from university, is introduced to Margaret for the first time at a ball at the Brandon’s home, Delaford.

The gong rang out, calling the weary dancers to rest awhile and replenish their energy. All the guests hurried off to the dining room, where tables were set, groaning under the weight of a magnificent spread. The musicians laid aside their instruments and dashed to the servant’s hall for a glass of negus and a bowl of soup. Colonel Brandon ushered his guests, Sir Edgar and Henry Lawrence, to his table, where much to her great delight, Margaret already sat, with her mother, the Middletons, and Mrs Jennings. There was such a hubbub and frenzied bustle about the room as people found their chairs and struck up conversation.

Every little party was talking nineteen to the dozen, piling plates with cold meat and hot pies, sweets and sorbets, filling glasses with ice cold wine. Everyone had so much to say and wanted to say it all at once. The sound of chattering, braying, prattling, and screeching, punctuated by howling laughter or tittering giggles, added to the delirious atmosphere.

Henry took his seat next to Margaret. “This evening is surpassing all my expectations,” he whispered, smiling into her eyes. “This is so much fun, do you not agree, Miss Dashwood?”

“I do, indeed, Mr Lawrence,” she replied. “I am enjoying myself very much, though I would more so if I felt we were not under so much scrutiny. Do not look now, but we are being observed.”

“Let me guess, Miss Dashwood,” he responded, “Lady Middleton and her sweet mother are watching us and, no doubt, trying to catch the essence of our conversation. Hmm, let me see. I must give them something on which to ponder and discuss.”

He selected a dish of pink, heart-shaped marchpane and, taking one between thumb and forefinger, proffered it toward her, proclaiming in an audible voice for all to hear, “Miss Dashwood, may I offer my heart? Pray, do not leave me in suspense, I beg you. Do not break it, but take it and devour it whole!”

Margaret felt mortified, especially when she saw Lady Middleton exchange knowing glances with Mrs Jennings. Everyone laughed when Margaret refused to take the heart and even more so when Henry begged again and it was only when Mrs Jennings spoke that the table fell silent.

“Colonel Brandon, where is your dear wife? Has she not come in to supper? I cannot think where she can be and for that matter, I cannot recall when I saw her last. I hope she is not ailing; she did look a trifle pale after the last dance. Bless my soul, but I must say it is probably wiser that she sit down more often.”

Margaret looked about the room and, in so doing, caught her sister Elinor’s solemn expression. They had each perceived the hints that Mrs Jennings was making and knew their sister would be far from pleased. But apart from that neither of them could see Marianne and both recognised the solicitous mien in the other.

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Lydia Bennet’s Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia’s online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet’s Story, begins.


February 14th, 1802

Rebecca the housemaid came to our door this morning with a breakfast treat of rolls and a cup of chocolate. She set down the tray, put more coal on the fire and then stood before the bed looking for all the world as if she bore it on her shoulders.
“Begging your pardon, Miss Lydia,” she whispered, looking about her as if she expected us to be intruded upon at any moment, “Forgive me if I have done wrong, but I thought it would be best not to hand this over to you in front of your mother and father. I found this letter addressed to you lying on the hall carpet, just poked under the door. I hope that’s right, miss,” she added, and took from her grubby pocket, a letter, sealed with red wax.

“Oh, Rebecca!” I exclaimed as I took in the seal that was formed into the shape of a heart. “Do stay. If you promise not to breathe a word, I shall read it to you.”
Kitty chose this moment to awake and as I produced the letter with a flourish and waved the heart under her nose, she squealed, expressing both her excitement and dismay at never having had any valentine ever profess his love on paper and asserted that she probably never would.

The seal was carefully broken to reveal a poem written in miniature script and decorated with a border of hearts pricked out with a pin.

Oh! Thou unkind one! prithee tell
Why thus from me, in haste, you go?
None else can love thee half so well,
Then do not, do not leave me so.
If fate ordains that we must part,
And I must ev’ry joy resign;
Then grief will quickly break that heart,
Which, while it throbs, shall still be thine.

“It must be from Captain Carter!” shrieked Kitty. “It can be no other. Oh, Lydia, he must love you very much to take the trouble to write and tell you.”
“How can it be the Captain, Kitty?” I cried, despairing at her stupidity. “He has just got engaged, as you well know, and besides, I can distinguish his handwriting and this is not it. In any case, I cannot imagine Richard Carter pricking out a decoration to save my life!”
“Unless he had a hand in its making,” chimed in Rebecca who had been staring mute and afraid to speak lest we sent her away.
“And if not, then it must be from someone else!” Kitty exclaimed, grabbing the letter and peering intently at the handwriting. “I swear there is something familiar about this writing, but I cannot think why that should be. I feel sure I have seen it somewhere before.”

We are all intrigued but I am certain that this proclamation of love has nothing to do with Captain Carter and has come from another quarter. How I am to find out I do not know but, I shall be most careful to observe the manners of all my gentlemen acquaintances when next in Meryton. No doubt my valentine will give me a sign. I must admit this little escapade has cheered me up beyond measure and I feel most excited at the prospect of a valentine beau!

Lydia Bennet

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…he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents would most suit her.

In chapter fifty of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet is beginning to think that she made a mistake when she turned down Mr Darcy’s proposal. Her feelings towards him have changed and she can only contemplate on the fact that if he knew of her heart’s transformation he would consider he had won a victory.

What a triumph for him, as she often thought, could he know that the proposals which she had proudly spurned only four months ago, would now have been gladly and gratefully received! He was as generous, she doubted not, as the most generous of his sex; but while he was mortal, there must be a triumph.

She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.

Here’s a card for Valentine’s Day. I hope you like it – it shows Jane Austen sitting at her little desk at Chawton cottage on her brother Edward Knight’s estate writing Pride and Prejudice. She’s nearly finished her novel and she’s enjoying a moment of triumph as she reads through the passage above. At any moment she may be covering her work when she hears the creaking door that tells her when someone is coming. Quick, Jane, I can hear someone coming. Oh, it’s only Cassandra and she knows exactly what you are doing. What a relief – there’s a little more time before anyone else will come downstairs, so hurry up and finish for all those generations of Janeites waiting to read your wonderful book.

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Calling all men! (As Lydia would say!) Look here – I know there’s still a couple of weeks left until Valentine’s day, but I wanted to draw your attention to the lovely work of Jean Judy and her blog about Jane Austen which features her lovely jewellery. I first discovered her work on Ms Place and Laurel Ann’s lovely blog and couldn’t get an e-mail out quickly enough to ask her to make me one after I’d dropped some large hints to my husband about February 14th! Here’s a sneak preview of my beautiful bracelet (underneath) which features Sense and Sensibility on one side of the medallions and a selection of my own paintings on the other. I asked for spring colours – I love blues and greens and I think it’s beautiful.

I’m not sure I will be able to wait until Valentine’s day to wear it.

Here’s my lovely husband with a couple of gorgeous girls – my sister and my daughter.

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