On Monday, August 15, I had the honor of spending the afternoon with a group of ladies who were not necessarily Jane Austen enthusiasts, but at the suggestion of my dear friend April, they had chosen to read The Phantom of Pemberleyfor their August book club choice. The McLendon Hills Book Club of Rockingham, North Carolina, is pictured below. For nearly two hours, we enjoyed scones, lemon curd, cucumber sandwiches, and tea, and we talked about Austen’s influence on my writing and daily life. (April said it was a Southern tea party because we also had pimento cheese sandwiches.)
They asked some excellent questions, several of which I had not anticipated. For example, I was asked for my favorite scene in the book. It was terrible to admit my “violent” nature. My favorite scene takes place outside of the Kympton church. Wickham confidently says that Darcy is too much of a gentleman to shoot him. I explained that when I wrote the scene I kept thinking of John Wayne in McLintock. Everyone knows the scene. It’s a classic. A farmer named Jones has organized a hanging because he thinks an Indian (1960s movies were not politically correct.) has done something terrible to his daughter. The character keeps poking Wayne’s character in the stomach with a shotgun. Finally, McLintock takes the gun and says these lines. (Yes, it is acceptable for you to repeat them from heart. LOL!)
George Washington McLintock: [through gritted teeth after knocking Jones down] Now, we’ll all calm down!
Drago: Take it easy, boss, he’s just a little excited, that’s all.
George Washington McLintock: I know, I know. I’m gonna use good judgment. I haven’t lost my temper in forty years, but, Pilgrim, you caused a lot of trouble this morning, might have gotten somebody killed…and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won’t. I won’t. The hell I won’t!
That is what happens in my book. Wickham taunts Darcy, and Darcy fires the gun. I loved it!!!
I also shared how as a 12-year-old girl, who was too skinny, too tall, and not as “perfect” as her older cousin with the beautiful voice, had fallen in love with Austen’s enigmatic Mr. Darcy, and how that love has never died.
“Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley’s attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.”
If Mr. Darcy could fall in love with a woman who was simply handsome, whose figure was not perfect, and who often placed her proverbial foot in her mouth, then somewhere out in the great world, my Mr. Darcy existed also. It was my Cinderella dream.
I also shared something of the character of Adam Lawrence. For those of you who regularly read my work, you will recognize Lawrence as the character who repeatedly shows up in my novels. In theatrical terms, he often simply has a walk on role. In The Phantom of Pemberley, he becomes one of the central characters. Since completing “Phantom,” I have written a novella entitled “His Irish Eve” (There’s an excerpt on my website www.rjeffers.com.) in which Adam meets his true love. The girl’s name is Aoife, which is Irish for Eve. Get it??? They are Adam and Eve. Yes, I realize I am a complete nut case, but that’s the way my mind works. Aoife is Cathleen’s (his mistress in “Phantom”) cousin, and there are multiple surprises for the future Earl of Greenwall.
So, I would like to thank the wonderful ladies of the McLendon Hills Book Club for their hospitality and for giving me a new impetus for writing. I should also like to thank Carolyn Dawkins for hosting this afternoon. She is a generous and lovely lady.
The ladies are from left to right: Marie Folmer, Carolyn Dawkins, Donna Clemmons, Glenda Hughes, Rachel Carr, Judy McEntire, and Lynne Betts. April Dawkins snapped the photo and is not in the shot, but she deserves my gratitude for her company and her friendship.