Written by: Jayne Bamber
Publication Date: March 8, 2020
Format: eBook, Paperback
“It seems you must disoblige one of your children, Sir Thomas, and you must be the chooser of the pain inflicted. Your son disinherited, or your daughter married to an imbecile she cannot love.”
When Sir Thomas Bertram returns home to Mansfield after his year in Antigua, he expects respite from his many troubles, in the bosom of his family. Instead he is met with blackmail, collusion, and the ominous threat of scandal.
When Mrs. Margaret Dashwood takes her daughters from Norland to Barton Park, she carries with her a secret hope that they might someday return, though she is not yet ready to pay the price for it.
A mutual connection bent on manipulation and revenge sets the stage for heartbreak, intrigue, and plenty of surprises as the worlds of Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park collide. Alliances shift along the way as familiar characters, bound by family ties, descend on Norland Park. There everyone has their own agenda, and constant peril looms as a large party of relations all scheme to outwit, out-maneuver, and outmatch their opponents.
Elinor & Marianne Dashwood, Maria Bertram, Fanny Price, and Mary Crawford forge new friendships and alliances amidst the chaos of conspiracy, romance, redemption and self-discovery, the likes of which Norland Park has never seen before.
Hello Dear Readers!
I hope this blog post finds you and your family well in these trying and uncertain times.
Today I am once again joined by the amazing Jayne Bamber to talk about her upcoming book Outmatched.
I must say I do love a good crossover and it’s good to see Mansfield Park getting some love too.
Colonel Brandon is one of my favourite Austen heroes and I’m so happy to read anything and everything with him featured.
And to have Mary Crawford as the heroine is also a very interesting choice. Although many people see her as more of a villainess I always saw her as more a product of her environment which is, of course, London society.
It’s going to be such fun to see these two characters interact.
So without further ado, I’m going to hand you over into the very talented hands of Jayne Bamber.
Author Guest Spot
Hello, Guiltless Delights, it’s great to be back! Last time I was here it was to promote my first Jane Austen crossover novel, and I am back with my fifth novel, which is another Austenesque medley – Outmatched, a fusion of Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility, is out on Kindle now, with a paperback coming soon – and a chance to win a free eBook!
Sense & Sensibility has always been my favorite Austen novel (I’m such a Marianne!) and I know that Mansfield Park is not most people’s favorite, but I felt the two novels lent themselves to a crossover very easily. There are characters that meld together very well – Henry Crawford and Willoughby have lots in common! – and characters that I have enjoyed throwing together to see how well opposites really attract – Fanny Price and Mrs. Jennings?!?!
The premise of Outmatched is a long-hidden secret that binds the Bertrams to the Dashwoods, and the intrigue that follows as the secret slips out. The cast of both novels descend on Norland Park, alternate pairings emerge, and the heroines form unlikely friendships.
The excerpt I am sharing today is about a week after the characters all descend on Noralnd Park – a couple weeks after Sir Thomas Bertram returns from Antigua and thwarts the Mansfield theatrical, which timed up with Colonel Brandon cancelling his Delaford picnic with the Dashwood ladies to go off in search of his ward, Eliza Williams. The aftermath of these events ties in to the development of relationships at Norland, along with the Big Secret that brought them all together. Colonel Brandon is still searching for his missing ward in the same area as Norland, while Mary Crawford is recovering from rejection by Edmund Bertram, after he becomes aware of the scandal looming for his family, and sparks begin to fly between the two….
Colonel Brandon had never been so eager to leave a place in all his life. He had come hoping that Willoughby might actually behave with honor – better still, that he might know of Eliza’s whereabouts. He knew it would be painful to see Marianne so happy with the blackguard, and yet he had expected the pain to be brief. The first night he could not refuse John Dashwood’s offer to stay, and on the second night the rain would not permit him to depart, as much as he wished it.
His every thought was for Eliza. He hoped that she was safe, that he might soon discover her, and that his greatest fears would not be confirmed. And he hoped for Marianne’s safety as well – that Willoughby would not ruin another beautiful young creature.
Colonel Brandon did attempt to be an agreeable guest, dancing in the afternoon and speaking with his host and hostess over dinner, but he was already weary from the exertion of concealing his troubles and feigning a levity that he suspected very few of the present party actually felt.
By and by, his brooding was interrupted by Miss Crawford, who came and sat with him by the fire. “Are you particularly offended by the chess board, sir, or merely in want of a partner?”
“Pardon?” He has not even noticed the large ivory and glass chess set on the table nearby, and smiled weakly at his own indifference.
Miss Crawford laughed nervously. “I thought if you did desire a partner, I ought to return the favor, for it was very kind of you to stand up with me this afternoon, when nobody else would. You performed the same service for Miss Dashwood, proving your good nature twice over – but then you and she are established friends already.”
The colonel smiled at Miss Crawford’s rather fetching awkwardness. “It was a pleasure. You dance very well.”
“You do, to be sure, but I am sure I did not, ah, put my best foot forward.”
A blush crept across her cheeks, and the colonel might have thought she was being coy, but for the fidgeting of her hands. “You did appear to be in some distress. I hope you are quite recovered.”
“A little, perhaps. It can be difficult to dance with a partner who makes you so very nervous.”
Colonel Brandon raised his eyebrow, and even caught himself leaning forward with interest. “I made you nervous? My apologies, Miss Crawford – but I wonder at your seeking my company now.”
“Oh, I am determined to conquer it, you see. I have never been prone to such silliness before, it is not my way at all. I have only experienced a little disappointment, and my confidence was wounded, that is all.”
Colonel Brandon laughed in spite of himself at such language as this. She had all the forthright charm of Marianne Dashwood, and yet there was enough sensible maturity in her speech as to make him feel he was speaking with a true equal. “When first I observed you, playing at your harp, you appeared entirely at ease – indeed I admired your performance very much; you looked lost in the music.”
“And so I was. You must have seen how my composure dissolved afterward, when I recalled that I was far from alone.”
Colonel Brandon recalled it very well. She had dropped her sheet music – a great deal of it – and it had hung in the air, falling at her feet just as any man of sense would do. It was a compelling moment, though he had thought it an affectation. “You were utterly charming, Miss Crawford. Such an admission, I hope, must render me a little less frightening.”
“I am not afraid of you – only of myself – that is, I am suddenly and very often afraid I do not know myself at all. But I suppose it is a natural enough thing, when one has suffered a little heartbreak.”
Her words resonated deeply with him, and yet a trace of suspicion returned. “You have been speaking with Mrs. Jennings.”
“Your greatest champion – oh, yes. I rather envy you, sir. Would that I had such a loyal friend and promoter. She has such good to say of you that I wonder at some who may not be convinced. Just as I wonder at some who….” She paused, her eyes drifting away from him and landing on a young man across the room – Colonel Brandon could not recall the fellow’s name, for he had hardly spoken to anybody since the colonel had arrived. “Who will not speak at all,” she muttered. Miss Crawford stood abruptly, smoothing out her dress. “Well, I am being very silly, now.”
The Colonel stood as well, and felt his hand reflexively reach out to her. “No – no indeed.” Checking himself, he lowered his voice. “If you are in any distress, I would be honored to hear you, Miss Crawford, and assist you, if I am able.”
She smiled and looked down at her feet. “That is very kind – I am sure I must seem so strange. I thought – oh, I do not know what I thought.” She sat down heavily, the thin silk of her gown swishing gently around her slender form. “I am sure you will think me mad, but I daresay that is no different than the impressions the rest of our party must give – is not everybody so very strange today?”
Colonel Brandon privately agreed with her, though he could not quite say why. “In truth, my acquaintance here is limited – and even the Dashwoods are not such long-standing friends. You may be the better judge of that, though I am sorry for your discomfort.” He shifted uneasily in his seat, fearing he had sounded priggish in the extreme. “What I mean is, I may perhaps be contributing to the ill-humor too much myself to perceive it from any other quarter.”
“You may, perhaps,” Miss Crawford agreed, her gaze flicking briefly to Marianne and Willoughby. “And perhaps I do the same. Perhaps it is my discomposure that makes everybody else appear so odd. Shall we be quite safe together?”
Colonel Brandon scarcely knew how to reply – he suspected she was flirting with him, and he had not been flirted with in so long that he hardly knew how to behave. To instinctively distrust her was cynical, and yet he could not account for her seeking him out and speaking so openly. He sat, silent and stupid, fully realizing for the first time how beautiful she was. Whatever that sulking little fellow in the corner was about, glaring alternately at Miss Crawford and her brother, the Colonel began to pity the poor girl. She must have been desolate indeed to seek a companion such as himself, with so little to recommend him. And yet, he was far from regretting that she had.
Miss Crawford blushed again under his gaze. “You do not answer me – what am I to think? Perhaps I had better leave you to your thoughts.”
This time he was faster – she had not the chance to stand up. “What of your offer, Miss Crawford? I believe I am in need of rescue.” He gestured to the chessboard, and her wide green eyes lit with delight. He was a skillful player when he had all his wits about him, which was far from the case tonight, and yet with such a woman before him, he was willing to risk being conquered just a little.