Many years have passed since the dramatic events of Pride and Prejudice. In The Cousins of Pemberley series we follow a new generation of heroines – cousins with lives as different and interesting as those enjoyed by their mothers.
Mary Bennet – overlooked, laughed at, despised – married a missionary and vanished into a life of service out in Africa. But now Miriam, her daughter, is coming to England, disliking everything she has been told about her family.
Her aunts and cousins are expecting someone quiet, dull and bookish, just like her mother, not the quick-tempered, impulsive girl who arrives.
How can this adventurous girl with her desire for freedom possibly fit into their well ordered world? And what havoc will she cause as she tries?
And so, under the shadow of Table Mountain, Longbourn, Meryton and Pemberley, the soft green of England, faded into the distance, only remembered when letters arrived, folded and salt stained, to tell – happily – of various births and – sadly – of Mr Bennet’s death and a small bequest to his granddaughter – and the shocking news that Lydia’s daughter, Cassandra, was shamefully illegitimate, although that did not seem to have stopped her marrying some young doctor.
The last letter from her mother, received only days ago, told Mary of another wedding, her distant cousin Catherine Collins to a Sir Robert Courtney. Even at this great distance, Mary could read the irritation in every crossed line that slashed blackly across the paper. None of Mrs Bennet’s daughters had a title, even the wealthy Elizabeth remained plain Mrs Darcy.
Mary was pleased to hear about Catherine’s great success in the marriage market; she had liked the girl’s mother, Charlotte Lucas, when they were growing up as neighbours, and envied her marriage to Mr Collins whom she would have been only too pleased to have married herself – if he had ever looked in her direction.
Charlotte had never been sarcastic or impatient with her when they’d met and, although she had been Elizabeth’s special friend, she had always had a kind word for Mary. It was delightful that her daughter had married so well, outdoing the Darcy and Bingley girls in society, if not in wealth.
Now black edged envelopes were on their way to England, informing Mary’s relations that the Reverend Malliot had passed away from a fever, leaving his wife with no money. After Mary had sold the school and settled his affairs in Africa, she intended to return to England to devote her time to what good works she could continue to achieve and trusted that between them, her older sisters, who had great fortunes at their disposal, could find her a small house in a pleasant neighbourhood for her use.
Friends of hers were travelling home on the next ship to dock in Cape Town and they had agreed to chaperone Miriam who could spend the time in England making a house comfortable for her mother’s arrival.
The African sun glared down outside and Mary dabbed at the perspiration that gathered on her temples and dampened the bodice of her thinnest dress.
“So Miriam, my dear, you will return to England at once. I have booked you a passage on a fast ship, the Sea Sprite, so you will be comfortable. Dear Reverend Poole and his good lady have
agreed to take care of you on the journey, you will have their daughter, sweet Delphine, for a companion and your Aunt Jane will send someone to meet you when you arrive in England.”
“Go to England? What will I do in England? My home is here in Africa.” Miriam Malliot, just turned eighteen, tall, slim, with dark brown eyes and a mane of red hair, fiercely braided to protect it from becoming tangled or attracting flying insects, stared at her mother in consternation. “I won’t go! And I loathe Delphine Poole. She is the silliest girl ever.”
Mary sighed and rubbed her forehead where another headache was forming. She hadn’t found motherhood an agreeable state. To be fair Miriam had been very little bother as a child, as long as she got her own way, but the young woman standing before her was a constant thorn in Mary’s side.
She could see nothing of herself in Miriam; no liking for quiet contemplation of great thoughts, sensible books or music. The red hair, hot temper and stubborn disposition must have been inherited from somewhere in the past of dear Matthew’s family, but the dark eyes and passionate tones could have been those of Elizabeth Darcy and her complete disdain of proper behaviour reminded Mary only too well of her younger sisters.
She admitted to herself now that, absorbed as she had been in all the good works that needed doing in this vast continent, she had left her daughter too much to her own devices and to a succession of nurses who had had no sense of discipline at all.
About the author
Fiction has always been my go-to world, a place of entertainment, excitement and imagination – I am told that I wrote my first story when I was four about a lady who had twenty children! Sadly it has been lost for posterity.
I have been writing all my life in the time I could spare from having a “proper job”, mostly for children under the name of Linda Blake, stories of ballet dancers, pony riding and talking animals! Not all in the same book!
But my love of romance, a great tendency to say “What if..?” and the endearing characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice have now resulted in a series of books that will take the reader forward to the next generation of heroines.
I am retired, live in Kent and am a keen member of my local drama group. Directing and acting take up a lot of my time – I have been given the onerous task of writing the Christmas pantomimes – but I still need to cope with a large garden, doing daily battle with the heron who thinks my pond is his own breakfast buffet and keeping in touch with friends and family scattered all over the world.