Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring.
Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.
Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.
Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she's engaged to another man.
Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?
Today I am welcoming back Maria Grace to Just Jane 1813. Not only have I had the pleasure to read and enjoy quite a few of her books, I also had the pleasure of meeting her this past weekend when my JASNA group hosted her for a wonderful presentation.
Her latest book in her Queen of Rosings Park series, A Less Agreeable Man, offers readers a story focused on Mary Bennet, which I know many JAFF readers enjoy reading more about in alternate character books.
It’s my pleasure to share a companion guest post based on her book and an excerpt from her story too. Please join me in welcoming Maria Grace to Just Jane 1813…
Not a typo—I really meant Nuncheon
On more than one occasion I’ve had a well-meaning reader point out to me a ‘typo’ that wasn’t. Specifically, they thought I spelled luncheon as nuncheon instead. The only problem is that I actually mean nuncheon! It was a thing back in the Regency era, but had origins all the way back to the 1300’s.
mid-14c., “slight refreshment,” originally taken in the afternoon, from none “noon” (see noon) + shench “draught, cup,” from Old English scenc, related to scencan “to pour out, to give to drink,” cognate with Old Frisian skenka “to give to drink, German, Dutch schenken “to give.” Compare luncheon. (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nuncheon)
The first recorded appearance of the word lunch was not found until in Richard Percival’s 1591 Spanish–English dictionary, and luncheon did not appear until after that! Both referred to a midday, informal meal. (Wilton, 2013)
The word nuncheon is a little perplexing. It seems to come from the words noon (Either the Latin word for ninth—as in ninth hour of the day from sunrise, that is about midday OR the old Icelandic word nón that referred to about three in the afternoon) and schench meaning to drink. All that to say it seems the word originally referred to a drink of some kind taken at midday or early afternoon. Later it came to mean a small meal or snack taken some time between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Just to make it all the more interesting, citations from the Oxford English Dictionary show nuncheon spelled many different ways: “nonesenches,” “nunseynches,” “nunchions,” “noonshun,” “noonchin,” “nunchun,” and others. Jane Austen spelled it “noon-chine” in her 1811 version of Sense and Sensibility (1811): “I left London this morning at eight o’clock, and the only ten minutes I have spent out of my chaise since that time, procured me a noon-chine at Marlborough.” However, editions published since Austen’s 1817 death usually spell the word either “nuncheon” or “nunchion.” (O’Conner, 2017)
So, what might have Austen and her contemporaries eaten for nuncheon? Most references suggest a lump of something like cheese or bread with something like beer or ale to wash it down. (Clarkson, 2008) Others suggest food was laid out more intentionally on a sideboard, probably in a dining room. Partakers could pick from cold meats like ham and roast beef, pickles, fruit preserves, and sweet items like cakes, buns, and tarts, all washed down with ale or tea. They might even enjoy a sandwich of bread, meat, and cheese. (Scott, 2009)
So why do we not use such a charming word anymore? Probably because it was replaced with other words like ‘elevenses’ and ‘tea’, which are perfectly fine words, to be sure. But somehow I still feel the loss of the charming ‘nuncheon.’
Butters, Mary Jane . “Nuncheon, anyone?” Raising Jane Journal. March 05, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.raisingjane.org/journal/33698.
Clarkson, Janet. “The Old Foodie.” Lunch or Luncheon? October 23, 1970. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2008/10/lunch-or-luncheon.html.
Clarkson, Janet. “The Old Foodie.” Not Luncheon. October 24, 2008. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2008/10/not-luncheon.html.
“Nuncheon.” Nuncheon – Everything2.com. October 14, 2003. Accessed September 11, 2017. https://everything2.com/title/nuncheon.
O’Conner, Patricia, and Stewart Kellerman. “Munch on, crunch on, nuncheon!” Grammarphobia. December 28, 2016. Accessed September 11, 2017. https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2016/12/nuncheon.html.
“Online Etymology Dictionary.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.etymonline.com/.
Scott, Regina. “Nuncheon, Anyone? .” NineteenTeen. April 3, 2009. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://nineteenteen.blogspot.com/2009/04/nuncheon-anyone.html.
Wilton, Dave. “Lunch, Luncheon.” Wordorigins.org. October 1, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/lunch_luncheon/.
Excerpt from A Less Agreeable Man
Nuncheon had just been set out in a little-used sitting room—Mary called it the rose room because one wall, almost completely of windows, overlooked the rose garden. Mary and Charlotte had taken to sitting there in the afternoon whilst Lady Catherine and the babies napped. The windows faced full west, making it unpleasant to Lady Catherine, at least during afternoons. The intense sunlight had faded the paper hangings and upholstery to nearly white, a little stark against the dark walnut of the furniture. Perhaps that was the charm of the room, golden glows, warmth that penetrated the bones and the faded scent of roses that lingered in every corner.
Charlotte moved gingerly from the food on the sideboard –cold meats, cheeses, bread, pickles, and fruit—to the couch, balancing a full plate in her hand. Several extra pillows had been laid out for her comfort. “It seems I do nothing but eat these days.”
“With two babies to feed, it is not surprising. You are not following the midwife’s suggestions as to your diet, though.” Mary filled her plate and followed her.
“Gruel and tea? I cannot possibly survive on that. Why would I be so hungry if I were not meant to eat?” Charlotte took a generous bite of cold chicken. “Do I look unhealthy to you?”
“No, I suppose not. And the babies are happy, so that must be a good sign.”
“They are lovely, are they not?” Charlotte got a little misty-eyed.
“Have you settled on names yet?” Mary nibbled on a pickled carrot.
“He shall be named for his father, William Lucas Collins.”
An itchy prickle raced across the back of Mary’s neck. It was not right to think ill of her cousin, but did she really have to name the boy for him? “And your daughter?”
“Catherine Anne. Do not look at me that way. I cannot deny him his most ardent wish.” Charlotte shrugged and returned to her plate.
Mary pushed up from her chair, leaving her plate behind in favor of the glory of the roses through the windows. Their fresh perfume wafted through on the soft breeze.
What point in discussing the matter? Catherine Anne was a good enough name for a girl, an excellent one for an infant who was little wanted and would wither in the shadow of her all-important brother.
No. That was uncharitable and unfair. There was no assurance that Charlotte would ignore her daughter in favor of her son—and no guarantee that she would not, either. The boy’s life was her guarantee of a home at Longbourn and an income. If there were any reason for favoritism, would that not certainly be one?
Charlotte’s underlying nature was kind. Perhaps in the absence of Collins, the children would reflect her more than him. Little William might be a thoughtful and generous brother, fond of his sister and solicitous of her well-being. It was not unheard of. Darcy took excellent care of Miss Georgiana, or so Elizabeth said.
It would be years before it might be known either way. But it was a far more charitable thought to be sure.
“Miss?” Parkes appeared at the door, looking positively flabbergasted.
“What is wrong?” What new tragedy could be inflicted upon Rosings Park?
“Sir William and Lady Lucas, and Miss Claremont have arrived.”
With no word of warning and with a guest? “You may show them in. Charlotte, it seems your family is impatient to greet the new arrivals.”
Charlotte sputtered and stood. “What did you write in your letter to them?”
“I should not have spoken so. Pray forgive me. I do not know what came over me.” Her expression suggested her apology was somewhat less than sincere
“You asked me to write those letters for you, and refused to read them before they were posted.”
Charlotte stared at her hands. “You are right of course.”
Yes, she was. But no point in belaboring that issue.
A stout, ruddy man in a tight cravat and a woman who looked like she belonged with him shuffled in. A young woman, in a pale muslin dress followed in their wake.
“Sir William, Lady Lucas, and their niece, Miss Claremont.” Parkes curtsied and ducked away.
“Oh, my dear Charlotte!” Lady Lucas rushed past Mary to clasp Charlotte’s hands. “Imagine our surprise to hear you had already been delivered!”
Sir William bowed to Mary. “We had only just written to Mr. Collins to tell him of our plans to be here a fortnight before the … ah … expected events.”
“I had no idea.” Mary cocked her head at Charlotte. Slapping her forehead would be in poor taste. So would rolling her eyes. “We are so glad you have come. You are welcome to stay here at Rosings to be near Charlotte.”
“Are you sure? Colonel Fitzwilliam is not here—”
“He has authorized me to offer such an invitation in his absence.” Her voice was probably a touch more severe than it had to be, but really, Charlotte was being most vexing.
“We are most honored.” Sir William bowed again.
Heavens, he had an alarming similarity to Mr. Collins.
“If you will excuse me, I shall have rooms made ready.” Mary curtsied and slipped out.
With Parkes’ assistance, she assigned the Lucases and Miss Claremont chambers at the farthest end of the guest wing near Charlotte’s lying in room and well away from Lady Catherine.
Of course, Lady Catherine would be all perverse surprise and randomness: today she was calm and relatively lucid. She was certain she had written to the Lucases herself and invited them to come and visit. It was right and proper that they should be at Rosings and even more pleasing that they brought along Mrs. Collins’ younger cousin. No doubt it would be a most improving experience for Miss Claremont.
Who was she to question her good fortune? One must relish it when it came.
Meet Maria Grace
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.
She can be contacted at:
You can purchase this book at the following places: