First of all, I’d like to give a huge thank you to JustJane1813 for the opportunity to be featured on such a fantastic new blog! And, of course, for featuring my favorite hero of JAFF, Colonel Fitzwilliam.
No doubt my infatuation with this character began when JAFF authors started setting him up as a romantic rival to Darcy, as someone to fuel his jealousy and spur him into his ill-fated proposal. Trends started appearing. The Colonel became a fun-loving charmer, showing up in JAFF as Richard for reasons no one could quite place. He’s so often set up as a more palatable romantic option than Darcy, whose still waters and brooding silences make him more of a dark horse.
Longbourn’s Songbird came about, funnily enough, because I’d always planned to write an epic story about our Colonel Fitzwilliam, the story of Elizabeth & Darcy told from the viewpoint of a wry, oddly romantic observer. As stories so often do, this one took on a life of its own and became something else. Because of the change of era and setting, the Colonel became simply Richard, and his narrative literally takes over the book in several places.
I found myself writing backstory, creating a very flawed family out of the Fitzwilliams. We know from Pride & Prejudice that Colonel Fitzwilliam is the second son of an Earl, but nothing is ever really said about the firstborn son. I started wondering what he might have been like, what kind of relationship he might have had with his brother. And so, James Aaron Fitzwilliam came to be.
Handsome, funny, and caring, the reluctant favorite of his father, James Fitzwilliam was written as more of an ideal version of Richard in the same way that Richard is often painted as a more ideal version of Darcy. The friendship between these two brothers might be one of the most important bonds in the story, and while it isn’t the first loss Richard experiences, it’s definitely one of the most important.
“I am glad,” he said, “to have our family here on this night before we all go our separate ways. We have heard the call of duty and answered, as this family has always done and always will do.”
He stopped, smiling fondly at his eldest son. “The Lexington is getting a fine lieutenant in you, James. I know you will make this family very proud.”
James bore the attention with his usual good humor, nodding thanks to his father.
“And Richard”—the admiral shifted his focus to his younger son, his tone noticeably drier—“may the army teach you well. I hope that you will do us proud.”
The USS Lexington (CV-2) was a naval aircraft carrier that was torpedoed by the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea during the Pacific Theater action in WWII. My own grandfather was stationed on the Lexington when it was hit. It made sense to me that James, being the perfect older son, would have followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy, while Richard would have rebelled by joining the Army. The one thing I wished I’d been able to explore more in Longbourn’s Songbird is the relationship between these two brothers. I wanted the reader to really feel how important Richard’s brother was to him. And so, exclusively for the readers of JustJane1813, here is a little peek into the Brothers Fitzwilliam. I hope you enjoy!
March 31st, 1942
I don’t know why you thought the Army was going to be so hard for me. Early mornings, scant mealtime, drills and the like? I think dear old Dad had me more prepared for war than any camp ever could. The only difference between the Army and home is there is a tragic lack of female companionship to be had here. I can imagine it’s even worse for you, being stuck inside a tin can with a couple hundred men for months at a time…well, it’s no wonder the port towns have such a fun reputation. I hope you get a chance to unfurl your sails soon, so to speak. In the meantime, keep your head down. I’ll see you soon, God willing.
Your better looking brother,
James laughed at his brother’s letter, silently grateful that he was adjusting to military life. He didn’t know why he should be so surprised, Richard had always excelled at the things he deemed worth the effort. Up until now, that had been women and horses. He tucked the letter into his foot locker, grabbing his pen and notepad to make his own reply.
May 2, 1942
I do wish you’d spend less time worrying about my sails and worry about your own. Unfurl them too many times and they’re likely to fall off. Glad the Army is treating you well, but I should have known you’d charm your way through Camp in no time. Don’t be so hard on our father, you know he can’t help himself, and I’m sure he’s proud of you. Lady Lex is stretching her sea legs now, but my head and my heart are back on land. I’m telling you this because I have the feeling I’m going to need your support with Dad. When we were in Sydney I met a woman… hell, she’s an angel. I’m in love, Rich, and it’s just as awful as you’d think it is. Terrible, wonderful, a constant, beautiful torture. I think about her all the time. I’ll be relentlessly happy one second and as grim and brooding as Cousin Darcy the next, wondering when I can see her again, give her my name, and bring her home. Father will never approve, you know. He wants me to find a good Annapolis girl, some admiral’s daughter and continue the family legacy. I’ve never rebelled against him before, but in this I will. I know I can count on your support, but maybe write to Darcy and Anne as well? I don’t know if I could explain myself to anyone else but you. And, for all your being the better-looking brother, I hope you get the chance to feel this way someday, when you meet someone patient or crazy enough to have you. I’ll spend the rest of our lives thanking you for this.
James sealed the letter and put it aside with the growing stack he would send out. He lay back in his bunk, the constant roar of the engines and pull of the sea lulling him to sleep, and dreams of beautiful futures that would never come to pass.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of the Fitzwilliam Brothers. I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!