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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rebecca Ann Collins Guest Post

My Cousin Caroline: The acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series The Pemberley Chronicles Book 6

Thank you, Grace, for the invitation to contribute to your blog and discuss the sixth book in the Pemberley Series, My Cousin Caroline, with your readers!

Perhaps the first thing to do is to answer the question: “Why Caroline?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that she is mostly my own character, not one I “borrowed” from Jane Austen, which afforded me an opportunity to define and develop someone who is a central character in the series, without outraging the sensibilities of those readers who, understandably, object to manipulation and distortion of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice.

However, given Elizabeth and Darcy’s warm regard for the Gardiners in the original Austen novel, there was scope for developing an interesting interplay of relationships between the two families. As Mr Darcy and Mr Gardiner join together in a successful business enterprise, Caroline and the amiable cousin of Mr Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, meet and fall in love.

The daughter of Mr and Mrs Gardiner, who embody sensible middle class values that Jane Austen herself accepted, Caroline has the advantage of an excellent family background, despite the fact that her father “is in trade”—as the Bingley sisters contemptuously declare.  Jane Austen shows that she has no time for such class-based snobbery and in My Cousin Caroline, it was possible to demonstrate the stupidity of such social prejudice , by telling Caroline’s story.

We observe her progress as she grows up, falls deeply in love, marries, raises her children and supports her husband in a difficult political career, working within a male-dominated society. She deals with many crises in their lives, while finding time to help members of her own family and those others in her community who are less fortunate.

Yet, Caroline is not some Victorian feminist—she is a loving wife and mother, who also uses her many talents and skills to achieve something for her family and her community. She is beautiful, romantic and passionate in love and in her convictions and is not afraid to express her feelings and opinions. But, she is also intelligent and sensible and never offends the accepted standards of dignity and decorum.

By her example, Caroline puts to shame women like the snobbish Miss Bingley and the self-indulgent Lydia Wickham. She is not a paragon of virtue, but she has resilience, compassion and strength, which help her cope with most of life’s many challenges.

With the marriage of Caroline to her beloved Colonel, the younger son of an earl, the two strands that came together in Pride and Prejudice are joined again.

Not only is theirs a delightful romance, but it demonstrates that the traditional social codes of gentlemanly behaviour and the middleclass values  of decorum and commonsense support one another in the marriage of Caroline and the Colonel. In the success of their union, Jane Austen’s own contention that honourable behaviour is not the exclusive preserve of one class of society is reaffirmed. Perhaps one of the most poignant episodes concerns the love story of Caroline’s own daughter, Isabella.

Because the timeline of Caroline’s story passes through the storylines of the previous novels, it was possible to draw in several of the other characters: the Darcys, the Bingleys, and the Gardiners, and revisit some of the events in the Pemberley Chronicles seeing them from a different point of view. In so doing, we meet again some characters, who had departed the scene- like Mr and Mrs Bennet and the lugubrious Mr Collins.

Readers who missed them in earlier volumes, will, I hope, enjoy their return.

About the Author
Rebecca Ann Collins is the pen name of a lady in Australia who loves Jane Austen’s work so much that she has written a series of 10 sequels to Pride and Prejudice, following Austen’s beloved characters, introducing new ones and bringing the characters into a new historical era. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this series has been extremely successful in Australia with over 80,000 books sold.
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