Back in 1984, I went into labor 5 weeks early in the middle of my Theatre/Acting class. That early delivery was the joy of my life, especially as I had lost two previous children.
Over the April 16-17 weekend, I had another early delivery. This one was two weeks early in the form of a new release, an event often repeated in the publishing business. As we authors think of our books as our “babies,” I will admit I am delighted with the successful delivery of this latest one, but, like my son’s early appearance some 31 years prior, I was not ready (I was leaving instructions for my sub as they rolled me out the door on a stretcher.) Most authors try to space out their releases, and so I re-released The Pemberley Ball in early April, for The Road to Understanding was to be a Mother’s Day release. However, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
So, permit me to introduce you to my latest “baby.” What is the premise of The Road to Understanding, you may ask? First, it is a Pride and Prejudice vagary set on the American front in the late 1780s. The characters are NOT Darcy and Elizabeth, but you will recognize them, nonetheless. They are traveling from the Roanoke, Virginia, to Jonesborough, Tennessee, on The Great Valley Road (i.e., the use of “Road” in the title).
I am not of the persuasion that Austen writes character-driven stories. Do not get me wrong: Austen’s characters are some of the most memorable ever written. However, in my opinion, Austen writes plot-driven stories. Take Pride and Prejudice, for example. Austen’s most popular story has been rewritten in the form of Bridget Jones’s Diary, You’ve Got Mail, Unleashing Mr. Darcy, etc. That is what I have done in The Road to Understanding.
We have the customary characters in this new tale: Charlie Bradford is best friend to Darius Fitzwilliam. They served in the Revolutionary War together. We have the Harris family with three daughters, Jonquil, Eliza, and Margaret. Mr. Norville is the new minister. One of Eliza’s friends is Charlotte MacCaffey. Geoffrey Shannon is the son of the man who betrayed the Fitzwilliam family. Darius has a younger sister named Grace, while Charlie’s sister is Caroline. I have combined the character of Miss King and Lydia into Miss Kimble.
This is the “Meryton Assembly” scene from Chapter 2 of The Road to Understanding.
And so on Saturday evening, Darius stood along the wall of the main building in Wythe Court House and watched the Harris ladies and many of the locals he’d encountered on previous journeys to “civilization.” In addition to the farm with its new barn laid out some three miles from the newly minted county seat, the men had constructed a makeshift dance floor from the left over lumber. A wooden floor graced the lawn.
When he and Charlie had arrived, his friend made the proper introductions for the other Harrises. Charlie’s estimation of Miss Jonquil was accurate: The woman held the face of an angel, but Darius preferred the imperfection found in Miss Eliza’s countenance. As to many others enjoying the celebration, he viewed them as too young, mayhap not in years, but certainly in temperament.
“Come, Fitz,” Charlie declared as he saddled up beside Darius, ”you must dance. I dislike seeing you standin’ about in absolute righteousness. You’d be better off claimin’ the attentions of one of the ladies. My sister’s hold on you no longer exists.”
“I am well situated, Charlie. Enjoy the music and the activity. You know I’m not much of a dancer. Even if Miss Bradford were in attendance, I’d be happy to claim my place along the wall. Moreover, I prefer to hold a longer acquaintance with a woman before I pay court.”
Charlie’s frown lines deepened. “Opportunities to take the acquaintance of eligible young women be few, Fitz. We’ll not encounter so many fine lookin’ women in one place any time soon.”
“You’ve danced with the fairest of the brood,” Darius teased.
“Oh, she’s the most beautiful creature I ever beheld,” Charlie pronounced with enthusiasm.
It stung Darius’s pride to view Charlie staring in the direction of where Miss Eliza spoke to her sisters.
“She made no notice of my missin’ hand when I partnered her, simply placed her hand on my stump. No repulsion whatsoever,” Charlie revealed. “As if it didn’t matter.”
“I told you so for the past decade,” Darius reminded his friend.
Charlie grinned widely. “It’s not as if your opinion doesn’t make a squat, but it’s different when a fine lady treats a man with respect.”
At least Miss Eliza had treated Charlie as Darius hoped. “Then you best be at it. The music will start again soon; you don’t want another to claim your prize.”
“Are you certain you’ll not join the set?” Charlie implored. “I mean again to claim Miss Jonni as partner, but there are several other very pleasant girls among the Harrises’ acquaintances.”
“You’ll claim the prettiest girl at the party,” Darius added his encouragement. “How might I compete with your engaging conversation?”
“Miss Eliza has yet to claim a partner for the next tune?” Charlie suggested. “You could do worse.”
Darius’s heart stuttered with the possibility. What would it be to hold the woman’s hand? To claim refreshments with Miss Eliza upon his arm? To escort her into the dark and to steal a kiss?
Without considering the ramifications, he turned to look upon Miss Eliza, until, catching her eye, Darius withdrew his own. Before responding to Charlie, he paused to will the desire from his blood.
“The girl’s tolerable, but not to my nature. I’m in no humor to pay attendance upon any woman this evening, especially one that thinks herself some sort of female equal to the men she meets. Less than a week prior, I considered myself engaged to your sister. Enjoy your many partners and their smiles. You waste your time with me.”
Charlie followed Darius’s advice. Unfortunately, when Darius turned toward the refreshment table, he didn’t notice that Miss Eliza and Miss MacCaffey had moved to within hearing distance of his conversation with Charlie. Darius didn’t witness the flush of color, which claimed the lady’s cheeks, nor did he note how her shoulders stiffened with his remark.
“I’m sorry for Mr. Fitzwilliam’s unthinking remark,” Charlotte MacCaffey said in regret.
Eliza swallowed the hurt: She’d never realized how much harm words could cause. “Think nothin’ of it,” she told her newest friend.
Eliza had liked Miss MacCaffey from the moment of their first meeting. The girl was a bit older than Jonni and not of the most handsome features, but Eliza found much to admire. Miss MacCaffey was well read and held astute opinions. Eliza felt as if they’d known each other forever.
“It’s not as if I wish Mr. Fitzwilliam’s approval.”
“I suppose men of his ilk only look to a woman’s station. My father says Mr. Fitzwilliam’s father is quite wealthy–the man owns more land than fifty others combined.”
Eliza’s eyebrow rose in curiosity. “I didn’t realize.” The concept perplexed her. She’d known other wealthy farmers and tradesmen, but none who’d chosen to ignore her as if she were an indentured servant. “And what of Miss Bradford? Wasn’t Mr. Fitzwilliam to marry Mr. Bradford’s sister?”
“Oh, yes, but the lady married another. Rumors say Miss Bradford didn’t wish to live in the wilderness. As to the woman’s brother, Papa says Mr. Bradford be quite wealthy also. Not as much as the younger Mr. Fitzwilliam, but near half. The elder Bradford owned a large mercantile. Supplied much of what the troops required in the war. One of the fortunate ones. Got paid regular for his efforts.”
“A person would never know the man wealthy,” Eliza remarked as she studied her sister Jonni in close conversation with Bradford. For a moment, she wondered if Jonquil held any knowledge of Mr. Bradford’s being more than another frontiersman, but Eliza quickly rejected the idea. Jonni wasn’t the type to practice feminine deceptions. “Mr. Fitzwilliam may hold double the income of his friend, but the man isn’t so well worth listening to as be Mr. Bradford. Fortune isn’t a man’s only redeeming quality.”
DARIUS FITZWILLIAM’s life is planned down to who he will marry and where he will live, but life has a way of saying, “You don’t get to choose.” When his marriage to his long-time betrothed Caroline Brad
ford falls through, Darius is forced to take a step back and to look upon a woman who enflames his blood with desire, but also engenders disbelief. Eliza Harris is everything that Darius never realized he wanted.
ELIZA HARRIS is accustomed to doing as she pleases. Yet, despite being infuriated by his authoritative manner, when she meets the staunchly disciplined Captain Fitzwilliam, she wishes for more. She instinctively knows he is “home,” but Eliza possesses no skills in achieving her aspirations.
Plagued with misunderstandings, manipulations, and peril upon the Great Valley Road between eastern Virginia and western Tennessee in the years following the Revolutionary War, Darius and Eliza claim a strong allegiance before love finds its way into their hearts.
This is a faith-based tale based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! I HAVE TWO eBOOK COPIES OF “THE ROAD TO UNDERSTANDING” AVAILABLE FOR THOSE WHO COMMENT BELOW. RANDOM.ORG WILL PICK THE WINNERS.