Sunday, January 3, 2016

Merging Austen's and O'Brian's worlds, and an excerpt

So apparently "In the Heart of the Sea" bombed at the box office. I suppose I bear some responsibility for that, as I still haven't seen it -- I rarely see things in theaters. But clearly it wasn't just me. The article notes that movies like this one, and "Master and Commander" generally only have an audience of older males, and that's just not a broad enough audience for box office success.

Now that hits home for me. Firstly, because "Master and Commander" is right up there with the 1995 "Pride and Prejudice" miniseries on my all-time watch-it-again-and-again list. But secondly, because that movie and that miniseries are set within a decade of each other, and yet they are in essence never-the-twain-shall-meet when it comes to audiences.

My primary goal with the Constant Love series has been to provide a sequel (now sequels) that stayed as true to the original and as accurate to Austen's original and the time period as I could make it (now them). But my second was to bring characters from the same naval world Patrick O'Brian writes so masterfully about (and in greater detail than Austen touches on in Mansfield Park and Persuasion), but to view them from a female perspective.

The primary characters of O'Brian's world are great husband material for the Charlotte Collinses of the world -- they're often gone from home, possibly for years at a time, leaving their wives not only responsible for running the household, but also all other matters while they are gone. For young women like Georgiana and Catherine, however, who are engaged to marry naval captains they love, this is not at all desirable. And for these naval captains who love their wives in a more Austenian way, this creates a conflict between career and love that is absent from estate-owning male heroes like Mr. Darcy. This was why the swoon-worthy Captain Broke was my model for Captain Stanton, rather than some of the more common literary and historical naval captains.

You can see the beginnings of this in A Constant Love, where Georgiana and Captain Stanton's courtship is cut short by Napoleon's Hundred Days. It will continue to be a major theme within the series, which is why Elizabeth and Georgiana are the primary female leads, albeit within a large cast of characters.

Elizabeth marries for love, but she also marries into about as eligible situation as she could ever have hoped for. She is mistress of a large house on a successful estate, and although there are certain challenges to this, and to mixing in the society Mr. Darcy does, they are very different from those Georgiana faces, to be marrying a man who does not even have a settled home.

Although the men might not make the greatest husband material, I do want to encourage my readers to give O'Brian a try. At the very least, if A Constant Love made you at all curious about this naval world that the captains inhabit, a viewing of "Master and Commander" will give you a sense of it. They generally did an exceptional job with historical accuracy in the movie, and there are things, like the firing of the great guns that Captain Stanton described in his letter in ACL, that are much more clear when you view them than when you read about them.


If the movie whets your appetite, for more, I have good news for you. O'Brian wrote 20 (and a half) books in the series, and while the movie does a good job of capturing the essence of the series, it's just not the same. If you choose to embark upon it, you'll have an epic literary journey, marked with exceptional character development, and plot-lines maintained and developed over the course of multiple books. I love it so much, I've read the whole series five times through.

To close this post, here is an excerpt from the upcoming A Change of Legacies, where we see the Stantons adjusting to married life, and understanding one another, given their different backgrounds -- Georgiana perhaps a little too young to be truly prepared for marriage, and Matthew not actually having spent a tremendous amount of time around women at all:
...as they approached one of the many tailor’s shops lining the street, Matthew said:
“I suppose I should purchase some new shirts – a few of mine are grown quite worn. Hawke has been threatening to sew me new ones if I do not, and there are few things Hawke likes so well as a foppish shirt.”
“You wish to purchase shirts in a shop?” Georgiana asked, incredulously, so strange the concept was to her. But then, she realised, he had no mother or sisters living to sew his shirts for him, and so his shirts must be procured in some manner.
“I did not think it so outlandish. I have been purchasing shirts since I was a commander, and it was no longer appropriate to sew my own.”
She stared at him, even more incredulous. “You can sew? But you are a man!”
“Dearest, when we men are at sea for months at a time, do you think we let our clothes fall to pieces for want of a woman on board?” he asked, his countenance quite amused.
“No, I suppose not, but I had assumed Hawke does all of your mending for you, as he would do on land.”
“Indeed he does, but I had no servant to do so until I achieved sufficient rank, and so I learned for myself.”
“Yet you would purchase your shirts now?”
“Do you know of any other gentlemen who sew their own shirts?”
“No, of course not. I sewed all of Fitzwilliam’s, until he married Elizabeth.”
“It is appropriate for a lady to make shirts, then?”
“Yes, and I shall make yours, if you would like. Let us purchase some fine cambric and linen, instead of whole shirts.”
“If you do not mind doing so, I rather like the idea of wearing shirts that have been made by your hands.”
“I do not mind at all. If you like the fit of one of the worn ones, I shall take it apart and use it as a pattern.” 

Taking the cure

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