Cliffhangers. They’re the bane of many readers’ existence, yet we writers keep using them. So why do we do it? Why do we insist on ending a chapter with a nail-biting cliffhanger?
First and foremost, cliffhangers are meant to keep you engaged, creating tension and excitement, and giving you a reason to keep turning the pages. Let’s face it – we all have busy lives and limited attention spans. A well-placed cliffhanger can be the difference between putting down your book and staying up all night to finish it.
But cliffhangers aren’t just about keeping you hooked. They can also serve a narrative purpose, such as building tension or setting up a major plot twist. For example, a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter might leave the hero or heroine in a dire predicament, forcing you to wonder how they will escape or overcome the obstacles in their path.
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that cliffhangers are an important tool in a writer’s toolbox.
So the next time you find yourself on the edge of your seat at the end of a chapter, desperate to know what happens next, remember that it’s all part of the writer’s plan.
Speaking of cliffhangers, last month I left you hanging, wondering how Elizabeth would respond to her father’s sudden edict in an excerpt from Simply Beautiful: A Novel.
Today, I mean to end your suspense with the rest of the chapter. Enjoy!
Simply Beautiful: A Novel – Chapter 5 (the conclusion)
Elizabeth took a deep breath and turned to face her father. The thought of leaving Pemberley and the company of Fitzwilliam was unbearable. While with him, Elizabeth reveled in each passing moment, savoring the simple pleasures they shared. Whether it was their leisurely strolls along winding lanes, engrossed in captivating discussions, or the peaceful hours spent immersed in the sanctuary of the library, their togetherness brought her immeasurable joy. Her heart raced as she thought of the last few days, especially in the wake of her father’s unexpected arrival—the intimate intercourse, the ever tightening bond between them, and the subtle gestures that whispered volumes of unspoken affection.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “Longbourn? But I have been perfectly content here at Pemberley. I am not certain I should wish to leave.”
Her father sighed. “Yes, you have lived here for the past ten years, but Pemberley is not your true home. Longbourn is where you belong, where our family has lived for generations. It is time for your return to Hertfordshire.”
He began speaking of Longbourn and the long-forgotten childhood memories it held for Elizabeth. Bennet knew deep in his heart that she belonged at Longbourn, and he held fast to the possibility that she might remain there long after his time had expired. What solace this brought to his mind—to know his only child would always have a place in the home that he and his family had resided in their entire lives.
“I can hardly object to your wanting to leave me such a legacy, but did you not say the estate is entailed to the male line of the family? Surely you do not mean for the gentleman to choose me as his wife. Who is to say he is not married?”
“I can assure you the gentleman is not only single but is also in want of a wife. As it happens, he wrote to me not very long ago with the express intent of wishing for an introduction to you, my Lizzy. The entail has been quite a bone of contention, especially with my not having a son. I do, however, have you, and through no fault of your own, my demise would leave you in a most disadvantageous position. I believe this is the young man’s way of wanting to make amends for the circumstances of the entail.”
Elizabeth’s mouth gaped. “Papa! Have you agreed to an arranged marriage between me and Longbourn’s heir apparent?”
He shook his head. “That is not what I am saying, but if I were, surely the concept of arranged marriages is not foreign to you, what with the future marriage between Pemberley’s heir and his cousin being so widely known and expected. But no, my Lizzy, I am not saying that you have to marry this accommodating fellow, but it would mean the world to me if you would consent to meet with him.”
“Pray, is this the reason for your being here at Pemberley after all this time? Do you mean to bring me to Hertfordshire simply to throw me in the path of Longbourn’s heir, hoping that I can be persuaded to accept his hand in marriage in order to fulfill your parental ambition of seeing me settled at Longbourn?”
“It is time for you to accept the realities of our situation. The Darcys are fine, upstanding people, else I would not have left you with them, but they are not like us.”
“How are we so different? You are a gentleman. I am a gentleman’s daughter. That must certainly make all of us equals.”
“Lady Anne Darcy is indeed a gentleman’s wife, but she is also the daughter of a peer. She is of noble blood, and despite how much she clearly cares for you, she does not view you as a suitable wife for her only son, the grandson of an earl. And I fear the longer you remain here the harder it will be for you to accept when she makes her preferences clear.”
“I … I am not sure I know what you mean.”
The leather chair’s bindings creaked as Bennet shifted his weight slightly and leaned forward, his countenance laced with concern. “I think you do, Lizzy. You might not want to admit it, but I have seen how you look at young Darcy. And I have seen the way he looks at you. You are a bright, beautiful young woman, and I do not mean to stand idly by and watch you suffer disappointed hopes.”
“I believe you may have read more into my expectations than is warranted,” Elizabeth said, although her thoughts were along a different vein altogether. Have my feelings for Fitzwilliam been so obvious or so much on display as my father believes? So poorly disguised?
Eyeing Elizabeth quizzically, Mr. Bennet concluded, “Then there is even more reason for you to embrace the idea of returning to Hertfordshire, your true home, where your relations who are longing to know you better wait for you.”
Elizabeth remained silent for a moment, her mind whirling with shifting thoughts and emotions. On the one hand, she could not bear the thought of leaving Pemberley, and Fitzwilliam, behind. On the other hand, she could not deny the importance of her family and heritage, of which Longbourn was a significant part. To further complicate matters was the underlying tension between her and her father, a man whom she hardly even knew, and the niggling notion that he was trying to control her life and make decisions for her. Decisions that were not his to make as far as she was concerned.
Despite the turmoil in her mind, Elizabeth settled on the notion deep down inside that her father was only looking out for her best interests as he had done in allowing her to be reared by the Darcys in the first place. He had never meant for the arrangement to be permanent, and this was his way of proving it.
“I understand what you are saying, Papa,” she finally said, her voice soft. “However, the prospect of leaving Pemberley, the only home that holds actual memories for me, is daunting to say the least and not a decision that I am able to make in haste. I must beg for your indulgence.”
Mr. Bennet looked relieved but also a little sad. “You must take all the time you need. I know a decision to leave the place you have long called home will not be easy, but I believe it is the right thing to do.”
Elizabeth had always thought she wanted her father to return to Pemberley. Why had he come now after so many years? Why now?
After so many years of his absence, she would have contented herself with the occasional visit. After so many years of neglect, he sat there with the look in his eyes she had long since forgotten, telling her he wanted to bring her to his home in Hertfordshire to live with him. Was it wrong of her to distrust his intentions? He wanted to take her away from Derbyshire, which was her home—to take her away from Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam, whom she never wished to be parted from, whom she had taught herself to believe would always be central to her life.
The turmoil in her mind increased with every review of her circumstance.
She had no words, her eyes flickering over the shelves of books in the library, the ones Fitzwilliam had recommended to her and the ones they had read together. She wondered what would become of the bond between them if she left Pemberley, and her heart ached at the thought.
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