by Kate Allan
No one who has ever seen me would suppose me a heroine. My situation in life, the character of my father and mother, indeed my own person and disposition are all against me.
Mrs Bennet is determined that all five of her daughters must marry. Mary overhears a conversation between her parents that shatters her already fragile sense of self-worth. She knows she is the least attractive of the sisters but to hear that her attempts to overcome this by being intelligent and accomplished are laughable sends her into a deep depression.
Mary and her her sister Kitty are sent to Derbyshire so that their elder sister, Mrs Darcy, can introduce them to suitable young gentlemen. Mary is satisfied to remain a spinster and is shy with gentleman. But she does decide she should try and improve herself.
On the way to Derbyshire she meets a strange gentleman who she considers ill mannered. However she is intrigued by his knowledgeable conversation about old buildings.
On arrival at Pemberley, the home of the Darcy’s, Mary discovers that the stranger is a Mr Sharnbrook of Kent and also a house guest. Mr Sharnbrook is an amateur archaeologist and has come to Pemberley to excavate possible burial mounds as part of his studies. Mary is interested in his work and offers to help him sort out his notes. Engrossed in the work, her spirits begin to lift.
A continuation of Pride and Prejudice beginning eight months after the end of Jane Austen’s novel, Mary Bennet tells the story of how the Bennet’s neglected middle daughter tries to overcome the disadvantages of her character and find happiness.
Mary Bennet is a familiar, if somewhat neglected character, in Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Mary, the middle child of the five Bennet sisters, lacks the vivacity and beauty of Elizabeth and Jane and lacks the boy crazy flirtatiousness of Kitty and Lydia. Not surprisingly Mary fades into the background as readers are drawn to the fates of her sister.
Kate Allan gives us the story of Mary, the much maligned middle sister, who for most of her life has been an embarrassment to her family by her complete lack of social grace so important at the time. As a result Mary is often the source of ridicule by some of her siblings and, not surprisingly, her mother. At last, in Mary Bennet, Allan gives Mary center stage and a chance to develop in her own unique way. Allan does not rewrite Austen and I believe that the many fans of Pride and Prejudice will find that Allan remains true to the spirit and characters that Austen created. In this way, Ms. Allan provides an extension to Pride and Prejudice focusing on Mary, the sister that Austen introduced but did not fully explore. The characters that Austen crafted remain identifiable and true to their portrayal by Austen within Allan’s novel.
Allan innovatively gives Mary an academic leaning and it is through research that she meets, collaborates and then come to love Nick Sharnbrook in her own time. Kate Allen lets Mary remain who she is and allows her to find acceptance and love from someone who appreciates her for herself. In the end she needn’t conform or master social grace to accomplish the near impossible, a love match.
Mary Bennet is a wonderful accompaniment to Pride and Prejudice and will appreciate Kate Allan’s exploration of the life of Mary. Mary Bennet is a true must read for anyone who enjoys the novels of Austen as well as those who enjoy the exploration of the life of women constrained by society and family expectations. Who doesn’t love the woman who defies the norm and finds contentment and fulfillment in a life of her own making?
About the Author
Kate lives in the Bedfordshire countryside, England, close to the Chiltern Hills. She developed plans to be a novelist at the age of seven after reading about the career of prolific children’s author Enid Blyton, whose adventure and mystery story books she read avidly. She taught herself to use her mother’s typewriter to try and make her stories look like “proper books”. Endlessly fascinated by “the past”, Kate took a degree in History before starting a commercial career.
She began seriously writing in 2001, taking a notebook with her on the train to make best use of her commute to work. She wrote two historical novel manuscripts before receiving an offer of publication for the second – a short novel – in 2004 from DC Thomson. Fateful Deception is a romantic adventure set in the early 19th century and was shortlisted for the 2005 RNA New Writers Award.
2006 saw the publication of Perfidy and Perfection, Kate’s romantic comedy set in Jane Austen’s England, and the publication of two short novels: Fateful Deception and The Restless Heart.
Kate also writes in partnership with author Michelle Styles under the name Jennifer Lindsay. Jennifer Lindsay’s first novel, The Lady Soldier, is a romantic adventure about a lady who disguises herself as a man in order to join Wellington’s army. It was published in 2005.
The kind of stories Kate writes are those that she would like to read, and she hopes that others will find them enjoyable and entertaining too.
Kate is member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.