More often than not, my search for the perfect Jane Austen quote to serve as the epigraph for a new story begins during the pre-publication stage. I always find something Austen wrote that perfectly encapsulates my book’s underlying theme. In the case of Simply Beautiful, I chose the following:
“Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
In Simply Beautiful, Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s past is marked by broken family ties and lingering disquiet, due to extended years away from her father. However, Elizabeth’s commendable trait of embracing her past, not through the prism of bitterness, but with a heart brimming with joy that fuels her courage to confront an unpredictable future, is the hallmark of the story.
Elizabeth’s confrontation is not solely with her past. She also wrestles with her present, caught in a whirlwind of family obligations, societal expectations, and her own evolving feelings. By clinging to the pleasant memories of the past, she gains the strength to navigate the uncertain path that lies ahead with grace and conviction.
Here’s an excerpt from Simply Beautiful that I hope you will enjoy.
The following days hurried by. Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet were in a haze of activity. It was arduous to explain the reasons for his departure years prior while also trying to lay a foundation for their future as father and daughter. Nevertheless, Bennet found it amazing to share stories with her.
I sense a growing bond emerging between us, particularly over our shared love of reading. Indeed, it is an honor getting to know my Lizzy again.
Bennet could not have been more pleased by how his only child had turned out. Indeed, the Darcys had done an excellent job raising Elizabeth, just as they promised him they would when he made the gut-wrenching decision to leave her in their care at Pemberley a decade ago.
Elizabeth was indeed accomplished as one would have expected, having been raised by the daughter of an earl and one of the most esteemed gentlemen in Derbyshire.
If he could find but one fault in the arrangement, it was the close connection between Elizabeth and the Darcys’ son and heir, Fitzwilliam. It did not sit well with him how close the two young people were, what with the young man being Elizabeth’s senior by four years.
Bennet had long believed no such occasions existed for the two to grow so close, for a man at young Darcy’s age was often away from his home. Surely someone of his stature, whose acquaintances were always increasing, had no reason to concern himself with his parents’ ward during those opportunities that afforded his return to Pemberley.
The evidence before him suggested otherwise. Obviously, the young people were remarkably close. The young man was extremely attentive to Elizabeth, his eyes rarely straying from her. Likewise, Elizabeth seemed to rely too much on the young man, giving Bennet much cause for concern.
Bennet knew the Darcys too well for his concern to be deemed unwarranted. He dared not speak for the young man and his feelings. He secretly wished the young man’s doting on Elizabeth was akin to an older, overly protective brother.
Young Darcy, no doubt, deems me a threat to my own daughter. Keeping a watchful eye on her when we are together, even from a distance, as though he were jealous because his presumed role as Elizabeth’s long-time protector diminishes with each passing day.
As for Elizabeth’s feelings, Bennet was not so sure. Young girls want nothing more than to be in love, and the look he saw in his daughter’s eyes whenever she looked at young Darcy evinced all the telltale signs of infatuation. What a precarious position in which to find oneself.
Bennet knew enough about Lady Anne Darcy and her ilk to know that she would never countenance an alliance between her only son and Elizabeth. It did not matter that she raised Elizabeth and the connection between them could be likened to that of a mother and daughter. He knew that Lady Anne had far grander plans for her son’s future. She had decided long ago who the next mistress of Pemberley would be. Only a young woman with a large fortune and noble blood coursing through her veins would be deemed good enough for young Darcy. Said person was firmly settled in Lady Anne’s mind as her niece and namesake, Miss Anne de Bourgh.
Who that knew the noble lady did not know that? No doubt young Darcy would honor his mother’s favorite wish for him. That was simply how it was for people of their ilk who often entertained the idea of marriage for wealth and connection instead of marriage based on love.
Why, even the Darcys’ marriage had been born out of an arrangement, with Gerald Darcy’s large fortune more than compensating for his lack of nobility.
His daughter Elizabeth had not a single drop of noble blood as far as Thomas Bennet knew. She surely had no fortune. No, Lady Anne will never accept Lizzy as a potential daughter-in-law.
So, where does that leave my daughter if it is indeed true that she is in love with the young heir? Bennet silently questioned. Ripe for future heartbreak was the only conclusion he could draw, leading him to but one decision.
I must carry my Lizzy away from all this before it is too late and she ends up suffering from a broken heart brought on by disappointed hopes.
Bennet could have no doubt that he had been Elizabeth’s greatest source of disappointment for the past several years. All of the promises he had made were promises subsequently broken.
Truth be told, every time he resolved to put the past behind him and bury the memories of the fatal carriage accident that had altered his world in such a devastating and tragic way, his troubles would assail him, returning with a vengeance. They denied him and robbed him of his resolve to be a better man and a better father, without fail, every single time.
All of that is behind me now, now that I know what I must do. My Lizzy does not belong here living among these people. She belongs at Longbourn Village, where she was born and reared for the first part of her life, amid her own kin.
It had been over a year since he had had his last drink. He had even forgone imbibing port with his friend after dinner, opting for conversation instead—confirmation of his having conquered his demons once and for all. Now he was even more determined to be the type of father who would protect his daughter. The kind of father she deserved.
He stared out the window and took in the sweeping landscape. Pemberley was indeed a magnificent estate.
I cannot give her all this, but I can provide her with something far better, in my humble opinion. I can give her a sense of her own self, her roots, a place where she really belongs.
Mr. Bennet settled into the leather armchair in Pemberley’s library, his crinkled hands clasped over the rich leather binding of a book. He sighed as he looked up at his daughter, who had been browsing the shelves restlessly.
“Lizzy,” he said tentatively, “it is time for you to return to Longbourn.”
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