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A Marriage of Attachment: a sequel to A Contrary Wind Kindle Edition
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The journey continues for most of the characters of 'Mansfield Park' as they each adapt to their new circumstances and their new adventures.
"I remain frozen in place, sir. I cannot move backward or forward. She knows I am here. Of her whereabouts and her current sentiments, I know nothing." (quote from the book)
I loved the opening chapter and the kerfuffle caused by the arrival of Lord and Lady Delingpole at Thornton Lacey, the home of Edmund Bertram and his sister, Julia. Their reasons for coming are two-fold, but the real one does not become clear until the end of the chapter and lingers throughout until the end of the story.
"She wondered if only being able to see what she had left behind - not what she was moving toward - had left its mark on her character. She was feeling extremely anxious about her future on this particular day, but then, hadn't that been true of all the important journeys of her life?" (quote from the book)
Fanny has accepted Mrs. Butters offer of head instructress to teach young girls how to sew, a charitable venture best known as the 'Academy'. We get to meet several new characters within the 'Academy' and one in particular, Mr. Edifice, a parson, reminded me of a cross between Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton...what a combination indeed!
Between Mrs. Butters encouragement and her ability to garner the respect of her students, Fanny's confidence and self-esteem continues to grow. However, Fanny has several set-backs that she works to overcome and a rather harrowing experience on the streets of London. Her friendship with Mr. Gibson is a pure delight and one that had its fair share of misunderstandings.
I must say though that between William Price's personal journey and Mary's deceitful manipulation of Julia Bertram, I was literally squirming in my chair and saying, 'No, no, no...this can't be happening!" But when William is given some advice by a very special woman, whom we all know and love, I had hope! You didn't think I would tell you which 'very special woman' did you?
"...our fears of the worst should not prevent us from acting in a manner which would best constitute our own happiness."(quote from the book)
Needless, to say, I loved this book as much as the first. The wealth of historical events woven into this finely-tuned story line are seamless and enlightening. The writing is superb and my suspicions confirmed at the end, when the book concludes...for now. So I must bide my time and wait for the next book...this year? I am definitely curious what the design on the cover will look like too!
I was fortunate enough to win this book in a giveaway with no expectation of a review.
This book continues with the same brilliance as its predecessor.
It's lovely to read as Fanny gradually gains more confidence despite the major setbacks she experienced previously and in these pages. As this story begins, she is living with Mrs. Butters. More importantly, she is embarking on a new career as a instructress in a charitable academy established by Mrs. Butters and other contributors to help impoverished girls learn the needlework skills necessary to become seamstresses. Mrs. Blodgett (Mrs. Butters' sister-in-law) is the supervisor overseeing the dressmaking, and she's a stiff, unbending type. Mr. Edifice, the local curate, prays and reads to the students for an hour each morning. Although he's not quite as ridiculous as Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice, he's cut from the same cloth and clearly sees Fanny as his prospective bride. Another young woman, Mrs. Eliza Bellington, comes seeking employment, eliciting Fanny's sympathy and support. Her presence leads to shocking consequences.
William Gibson, a character introduced previously, is enjoying his moment of fame as a successful writer and now is working on a novel. With his improved circumstances, he's starting to believe he could be in the financial position to consider marriage. He's entranced by Fanny, although he's aware that her heart belongs to some unattainable gentleman. Kindly Mrs. Butters encourages the pair and provides opportunities that throw them together. Fanny is not unaffected by him and knows she has to let go of her longing for Edmund.
Julia Bartram's disposition is much improved from the spoiled, selfish girl we met at the beginning of the previous book. She lives with Edmund at his parsonage, eagerly awaiting the return of William Price, with whom she is secretly engaged. Her betrothed does have success in his naval career, but his experiences with the West African Squadron trying to stamp out the slave trade at its source are horrific. Consequently, William becomes convinced that he cannot subject Julia to the life of a naval wife to either wait in England for a husband who may never return or, worse, join him onboard his ship and become exposed to the same dangers.
Edmund and his wife are still estranged, but she's finding her consolation in the arms of another, as everyone in gossipy-olde-England seems to know. Edmund may be the heir to the baronetcy now, but the family's reduced financial circumstances have him living in Thornton Lacey for the foreseeable future, and Mansfield Park is leased out while the rest of the Bertram family lives elsewhere. Edmund doesn't want his wife's corrupting influence around his sister Julia. When Mary encounters Julia in London, she makes sure to introduce her to Mr. Meriwether, a man in need of a wife, and this leads to yet more complications.
Much as I despise Mrs. Norris both here and in the previous book, it is almost comical to read the unintended results of her malicious gossip. Her importance to the rest of her family slowly diminishes because no one wants the sour, domineering lady around. Fanny even tells her off (in the nicest way possible, of course).
There's so much more to this excellent plot. As in the previous story, the threads work together without any strings left unattached, including those that reference actual historical people and events. When the Ratcliffe Highway murders first come into the plot, at first I was concerned that the author was going too far afield, but it leads to a significant scene between Mr. Gibson and Fanny. (Her younger brother John works in the police office in Wapping, where the murders take place.) The politics of the day are also brought into play, with heated debates over the government's expensive war efforts on so many different fronts.
The romance in these pages is mostly of the angst variety for a few different couples. I would describe it as more the way Jane Austen herself would pen it rather than the more sensual type favored by many JAFF readers.
There are pieces of Jane Austen's own writing here and there, and they blend seamlessly with Ms. Manning's excellent prose. I can't express how impressed I am with this author's fluid writing. I was appreciative of the "Background Information" at the end of the book which explains it was her conscious choice to use the words "fiancee" and "-in-law" despite the fact that they were NOT in use during Regency times--I had noted them as I read and was surprised that such a well-researched novel would have these obvious errors.
"Background Information" also identifies which characters are real and which are imagined. I was surprised to learn how many WERE real. There are also cameos by characters from other Jane Austen novels, most notably Admiral and Mrs. Croft. I would also recommend that you seek and read "Afterword: The Merits of Mansfield Park" at about the 88% mark on my kindle. It gives more insight about Jane Austen, the so-called "conduct books" that were in fashion at the time she was growing up and starting to write, and how she broke away from that mold.
When I started reading A Contrary Wind: a variation on Mansfield Park I was under the impression that this was a 2-book series. There definitely will be at least one more, or possibly more--I can't say for sure because neither of the book descriptions give that information. There's a bombshell dropped near the end that takes one story arc in particular in a startling new direction. I don't know when the next book will be released, but I want it NOW!!
That's a testimony to how well-conceived and well-written this series is. I will watch impatiently for the next installment and snag it as quickly as possible.
I do note that this book ends at the 84% mark on my kindle. The last 16% contains the aforementioned "Background Information" and "Afterword: The Merits of Mansfield Park." There's also an "Author's Note," "About the Author," "Acknowledgements," listing of "Dramatic Personae," "A Synopsis of Mansfield Park,""Discussion Questions for Mansfield Park," "Discussion Questions for A Contrary Wind: A Sequel to Mansfield Park," and "Discussion Questions for A Marriage of Attachment: A Sequel to A Contrary Wind." At about the 94% mark, you'll find the opening chapters of a book by another author.