What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean
I was asked by Love Books Group Tours to join the blog tour for What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean, published by RedDoor Publishing, I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
England, 1813 – Nineteen-year-old Catherine Bennet lives in the shadow of her two eldest sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, who have both made excellent marriages. No one expects Kitty to amount to anything. Left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as ‘silly and ignorant’, Kitty is lonely, diffident and at a loss as to how to improve her situation. When her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcy’s magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, she is overjoyed. Keen to impress this new society, and to change her family’s prejudice, Kitty does everything she can to improve her mind and manners – and for the first time feels liked and respected.
However, one fateful night at Pemberley, a series of events and misunderstandings conspire to ruin Kitty’s reputation. Accused of theft – a crime worse almost worse than murder among the Georgian aristocracy – she is sent back home in disgrace. But Kitty has learnt from her new experiences and what she does next does next will not only surprise herself, but everyone else too.
Based on Jane Austen’s much-loved characters, this is the story of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the obstacles of her time and place and truly find herself.
Longbourn, January 1813
Matters matrimonial had long been the focus of Miss Catherine Bennet’s world. How could it be otherwise? The absolute necessity of finding a husband – a respectable husband, of course, but one whose chief recommendation must be his wealth – was the very cornerstone of her education. Her tutor and adviser in this winsome endeavour was none other than her indefatigable mother, Mrs Bennet, a woman whose sole aim in life was to see her five daughters married, and married well.
Catherine had accepted this doctrine, taking it as her own. Now though, with three sisters all wed within half a year, mildly disturbing thoughts were forming in her nineteen-year-old mind. Those sisters had all three married for love. Catherinehoped – expected – to do likewise but, young and inexperienced as she was, even she had begun to see that love was an indefinable commodity and certainly not one that guaranteed a life without care. Inchoate questions clamoured for answers she did not have. What if she were not to find a suitable husband? Where would she live? What would she do? What would she like to do?
Mrs Bennet burst into the parlour, dispelling any possibility of further introspection. ‘Oh Kitty, there you are. Where is Mary, where is your sister?’
If she wanted replies, Mrs Bennet did not wait for them. Instead, she peered at Kitty. ‘Really, what is to become of you?’ she said, shaking her head and unwittingly echoing her daughter’s unvoiced concerns. ‘You don’t look well, child. What is the matter with you? Are you unwell?’
‘I am quite well thank you, Mama,’ said Kitty, wondering what was wrong with her appearance now. It really was very hard to please her mother. ‘I am just a little tired.’
‘You are not lively these days,’ declared Mrs Bennet, subsiding into a chair. ‘You and Mary should walk into Meryton; it is days since we heard news. The day is bright, there is no rain. Perhaps the militia are returned? Aunt Phillips will be waiting to see you. She will know if the officers are back. How I long to hear from your dear sister Lydia. Not a word from her since Christmas. I am sure she will have much to tell us.’
‘Mary is not given to walks into Meryton, Mama,’ said Kitty. ‘If you can persuade her then so much the better, but I fear she will not give up her books.’
‘Books,’ said Mrs Bennet, investing the word with disdain. Since the early days of their marriage, a somewhat disillusioned Mr Bennet had treated his library as a refuge, both from his wife and the clamour of family life. Mrs Bennet had become used to this arrangement and tolerated books insofar as they could provide some form of entertainment, but that they should be preferred to social intercourse was, to her, quite unnatural. Her husband must read his books, of course, but for her daughter Mary to shut herself away reading her sermons and treatises was not to be borne. It was not as if the girl was blessed with uncommon beauty; she really must learn to smile more and lose those dour expressions. In that, at least, she could learn from her younger sister, Kitty. Books, indeed!
Mrs Bennet contemplated these unpleasant traits for a few moments and then, with surprising rapidity, rose, collected her skirts and left the room, calling out for Mary to attend her. Kitty stared at the closed door, sat back in her own chair and let the silence surround her. Did she look tired? She got up and went to study herself in the glass over the mantel.
Like young women everywhere, Kitty found much to worry her. She was not fair like her sister Jane; her expressions were not as pert and pretty as Elizabeth’s; she was not robust like Lydia; her features were not good enough… and so on and on. To anyone else – anyone, that is, not prone to measuring every attribute of womanhood against a supposed ideal of physical perfection so that it can be found wanting – Kitty’s looks were very pleasing. Some young ladies attain their fullest bloom at fifteen or sixteen years, and often fade fast thereafter; others have features that slowly and subtly change to reach their fullest perfection at one and twenty or thereabouts. Kitty was one such. Slender, but without any loss of feminine form, her figure was graceful. She appeared delicate. Her face, framed by an abundance of dark brown hair, could, in repose, seem rather too serious but when animated threw off any melancholic or grave aspects. Her eyes were clear and blue; her nose was straight and unassuming; her mouth neither small nor large. Nature had given her all the necessary attributes of attractive womanhood and if, when she entered an Assembly room, she did not command as much attention as others less fortunate physically, this was more to do with a lack of confidence in herself (and, of course, a lack of fortune).
There was no sign of Mary; presumably Mrs Bennet had not been successful in persuading her of the merit of exercise over books. Kitty settled back into her chair, wondering how to amuse herself for the next hour. It had been some time since she had read a book. She had suffered poor health as a child and spent weeks confined to her room and her bed. During those times, books had offered some solace but when she had recovered her health she had not wanted to stay seated, still less reading. How she had envied Lydia’s energy and high spirits. It had not taken long before the older sister had been in thrall to the younger and anything Lydia did or wanted to do was endorsed by Kitty.
And now Lydia was Mrs Wickham, living in Newcastle and all but estranged from her family. Jane was become Mrs Bingley and removed to Netherfield House; and Elizabeth was Mrs Darcy, mistress of a fine estate in Derbyshire, and far away. A Christmas had come and gone without the accustomed noisy family cheer. For Kitty, left behind in Longbourn with only her parents and Mary for company, life was dull and not a little lonely.
She did not much feel like meeting any new officers either, an unusual admission for Miss Catherine Bennet and one which, if articulated, would have produced an incredulous tirade from her mother. Marriage and money, livings and love… what else was there for her to think about? Kitty’s thoughts returned to her sisters.
That Jane, the beauty of the family with a character and disposition perfectly in harmony with her pleasing appearance, should be married to an amiable, handsome gentleman of good fortune was, without question, exactly as things should be. Kitty held Charles Bingley in high regard and was exceedinglyreadyto like and admire him. Not only was he in love with her eldest sister but his personality was such to find pleasure in, or at least tolerate with benign countenance, the company of all his wife’s family. Kitty was not in the least afraid of him.
Elizabeth’s husband was a different matter. Whilst unfailingly correct and polite, the taciturn Mr Darcy was a figure of some awe to Kitty. In truth, she had been amazed when Lizzy had announced her betrothal and still did not fully comprehend her sister’s choice – though she was in no doubt that it was an excellent match. Who would argue against a man with ten thousand a year, especially one of sound body and mind? Certainly not Mrs Bennet! Even so, to choose to spend one’s life with a man such as Fitzwilliam Darcy, rich though he was, seemed to Kitty something of a sacrifice, although she had to own that Lizzy seemed not to consider it so.
With regards to George Wickham, Kitty scarce knew what to think. The circumstances of Lydia’s hasty marriage to the dashing Captain Wickham, who with his red coat and easy manners cut such a debonair figure, were no longer discussed in the Bennet household, as if silence could eradicate the taint of scandal the elopement had occasioned. This suited Kitty very well. While not complicit in the couple’s infamous plan, some censure had fallen on Kitty who had been in correspondence with Lydia during her stay in Brighton from whence she and Wickham had fled – the one to escape his debts, the other to pursue an ideal of romantic love. Kitty pouted as she remembered her father’s unspoken wrath. Long since derided by him asone of ‘the silliest girls in England’, she feigned indifference but felt aggrieved. She was not the only one to succumb to Captain Wickham’s charm. Why, even Lizzy, her father’s favourite, had enjoyed his company, and Lizzy could do no wrong in her father’s eye.
A petulant sigh escaped Kitty. It really wasn’t fair. They had all been deceived as to Wickham, and this was another of the unwelcome thoughts troubling Kitty. How could one ascertain another person’s character? What if another handsome young officer presenting as a perfect gentleman should turn out to be a blackguard? Kitty’s confidence in mankind had been severely shaken.
Meanwhile, she was dissatisfied with both her appearance and her plight. In the wake of Lydia’s ‘shameful and deplorable antics’ (her father’s words), Mr Bennet had, at last, sought to exercise his parental control: he expected nothing less than perfect behaviour; he saw no need for his daughters to be at every social gathering, at every ball; henceforth any young men showing even a passing interest in his daughters would be the subject of his careful scrutiny; he required at least two hours of useful study every day. Mr Bennet did not mean these instructions to be taken literally, although Kitty interpreted them so.
For Mary, ever studious and serious, quite uninterested in such frivolous pleasures as flirting and dancing, life continued unchanged, but Kitty felt the strictures keenly. Why should she suffer blame for Lydia’s indiscretions? Why was it all her fault? Why did no one ever listen to her? It was all so unfair!
About the Author
Carrie Kablean began her career in London, where she was born, and now lives in Australia. Arriving in Sydney in 1990 (via eight years in Papua New Guinea, during which time she edited the local newspaper on Bougainville), she was with The Australian newspaper for more than 20 years, and was, concurrently, a theatre critic for the Sunday Telegraph.
You can buy it here at Amazon.