Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Confronting the Status of Regency Women in Writing: A Saving Grace Excerpt

I have a treat for you my dear readers. I have another excerpt to share with you from my story Saving Grace. I hope this will tide you over until I post my analysis on Bride and Prejudice.

This was one of the difficult scenes for me to write. I think every writer encounters a moment when they write where the scene is so emotional and do difficult that you are glad when it is over. Why was this scene do difficult?

Read the scene and see my additional thought below.

Lady Grace was successfully finding pursuits to distract her from her father's intense rhetoric. She found herself devouring Wollstonecraft on long walks across the countryside. It was far more preferable to anything she had to endure at home. It was a calming time when she was among the rolling hills and the sound of the wind teasing the branches of the trees were around to speak to her. When she didn't have her nose in Wollstonecraft or wandering the countryside she was closeted in her father's library. In an effort to distract herself from the impending marriage that was sure to come once her father found a man gullible enough to accept she found herself perusing any medical book she could get her hands on. She found herself searching for some clue to Colonel Fitzwilliam's condition.

It was on such a morning, while perusing the medical books in the library, that she remembered the evening at the ball and witnessing the Colonel's distress which had remained with her. She touched her neck where the bruises had been, having long since faded, and for a moment she was transported back to the first time Colonel Fitzwilliam had touched her in an intimate manner. Her lips unconsciously opened and she closed her eyes as she recalled the glowing embers of his eyes. His eyes had been a deep mahogany swirling with emotion she couldn't quite identify. The loud thunder of a door being thrown open jolted her from her thoughts, startling her.

"What is this rubbish doing in my house?" Lord MacKenna filled the doorway; his face flushed with anger, and was holding a book above his head.

Grace gasped. Her beloved Wollstonecraft! She stood and was surprised she didn't collapse right back down in fear. "Quinn gave it to me as a gift, Father."

Lord MacKenna's eyes narrowed at his daughter. He walked toward her with calculated determination before stopping mere inches from her. "I will not have this in my home. Burn it!"

Her father has spoken with such deadly calm but she was not ready to part with her brother's extraordinary gift. Her father had already taken so much from her and perhaps it was a last bought of resistance or maybe it was a desire to prove to herself that she had not truly died. She took a deep steadying breath, squared her shoulders and set her chin at a defiant angle. "No. I will not."

It was a tense moment before Lord MacKenna's anger ignited at her defiance. His face became red and his gaze full of furry. He took in the appearance of his only daughter, her red hair and flashing green eyes and more importantly her frail appearance. It almost gave his anger pause, but it was quickly demolished as her defiance was not to be borne. "You dare to defy me? You are in my home and just as I own this property, I own you Grace which means that you are mine to command."

Grace flinched as her father in his anger shook the book in her face. "This rhetoric is not welcome under my roof. I want it gone."

Despite her rising fear she could not bring herself to destroy such a beautiful book. It only meant more to her that it came from Quinn. Quinn her dearest brother who always made her laugh even when she was cross with him. "No! I will not destroy it," she cried.

Lord MacKenna was furious and Grace found herself pushed roughly aside as her father stalked in determination toward the fire. No! She moved and grabbed her father's arm, halting his attempt to throw the book into the fire. "Please, father," she begged. "Quinn gave this to me. Please don't take this from me. It is all I have left."

"Let go, Grace." Lord MacKenna shook his arm roughly in an attempt release his daughter's tight grip on his arm.

Grace made a grab for the book in his hand. However, he would not yield. It was but a moment of struggle before her father grew more furious. He roughly pulled his arm out of her grip and as he went to throw the book into the flames she made one last attempt to capture back her prized gift. It was in that moment when he finally lost patience and he violently pushed her away and sent her hurtling backwards. She saw the book go up in flames right before her head made contact with the edge of a table. She felt a searing pain as a scream ripped through her and she tumbled to the ground, barely catching herself before she hit her head for a second time.

She felt rather than saw her father move toward her. He had just placed his hand on her arm and she jerked back as if she had been burned. She slowly lifted her head to look at her father, despite the pain, and the look on his face was almost one of concern, but she knew better. "Don't touch me," she hissed.

In this scene I confront the status of women and what they could have possibly been subjected to during the 18th and 19th century. My heroine was given a book, The Vindication of the Rights of Women to be exact, by her brother Captain Quinn MacKenna. What has become termed now as feminist thought is not well received during the time. Women were considered property and had few rights.

I post my work at an Austen writing community and I must confess this scene made some of my readers very upset. They could not believe what occurred. When I explained the limitations and the realities of the time period, they were still upset, but they could understand the situation better. Perhaps too, this is a testament to a writer’s skill when they can invoke such emotion in a reader. What do you think?

I confess the scene still needs some work, but I always think my writing could use work.

What do you think of this scene? Improvements? Perfect (it’s not)?

Look forward to your thoughts and I hope this appeases you until this week’s star blog post about the Bollywood Bride and Prejudice.

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