What do the color blue and butterflies have in common? An odd question, you ask? Yes, it is, especially for the introduction of a new author and new book at Meryton Press. Let me explain. For the cover of Helen Williams’s novel, In Essentials, butterflies and blue are used, and both have significant meaning to the story… hope. The placement of the butterflies is also meaningful. I’ll leave that to you to decipher. When you read the book, it will become clearer.
The life of a butterfly is a message of hope. When the caterpillar spins its cocoon, it goes through a time of loneliness and darkness before it emerges to the light as the beautiful butterfly. In this unique and poignant story, Lizzy and Darcy go through transformations like a butterfly, yet their strength and hope help them soar through the lows to reach the highs of a beautiful life filled with love.
Before I introduce you to the author, Helen Williams, let’s take a look at the full wrapper.
Although not mentioned in the novel as such, the butterflies, the color blue, the black silhouette of Lizzy, are symbolic. The phaeton, which is mentioned, has its special place, one which you will enjoy.
Let’s take a look at the blurb, then I’ll introduce you to Helen Williams, the author.
Five months after Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he discovers that the woman he ardently loves is suffering from a grave illness.
Despite an affliction that has left her altered, Elizabeth Bennet is still the same person in essentials: witty, sanguine, and obstinate. However, her future is uncertain, and she struggles to maintain her equanimity—especially when Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to Netherfield and seems determined to improve her opinion of him. Now she must decide whether she is brave enough to trust him and embrace happiness, however fleeting it might prove to be.
Helen lives in Cambridge, UK where she works for the University of Cambridge. She has been writing as a hobby for around 15 years and has written several novel length stories based on the work of Jane Austen. Helen has Welsh roots so her stories will often include a couple of references to the land of her fathers, in addition to her two other loves – dogs and rugby. In addition to writing, Helen’s hobbies include cooking, hiking, cycling and campaigning for green initiatives. Having been diagnosed with pituitary growths in 2015 and 2020, Helen is also an active member of the Pituitary Foundation and her experiences with chronic illness inspired her latest story.
Learn a bit of Helen’s story in her own words, then read the first excerpt from In Essentials.
From the Author
When I was twenty seven years old, a simple headache changed my life forever. I’ve lived ever since with a chronic illness and have always wanted to use my experiences in a story. For a while I toyed with the idea of a modern Pride and Prejudice, but then one day the idea for In Essentials hit me. So this book is my attempt to share my own health journey, albeit through a Regency-tinted lens.
Whilst I have had no comparable romance in my life (alas!), I have been supported by many people whom I love, and they have seen me through some very difficult years – as Mr Darcy sees Elizabeth through some severe tests of her own. No doubt it seems odd to inflict such suffering on two beloved characters – and I adore Elizabeth and Darcy as much as any Jane Austen reader – but to me, it was satisfying to imagine and write about the devotion, love and bravery they both need to overcome this challenge. None of Jane Austen’s couples reach their happy endings without a few bumps in the road first; I took that concept, added in my chronic illness and In Essentials was the result. I hope you enjoy the journey.
Excerpt – Chapter 6
“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak.
“Mr Darcy, whatever my feelings in the matter, it is beyond my power to accept you. You do not know…you have only seen me as I am now…I shall never be a fit wife for any man, let alone one in your situation. I am an invalid. It is uncertain that I should live to see my thirtieth year, and I shall never bear children. Whilst I am honoured by your proposal, I could never consent to become Mrs Darcy—knowing I shall never bring honour to you or your name.”
“I would rather we not speak of honour, Miss Elizabeth. I have asked you to be my wife because I love you and because nothing would make me happier. Might you not consider my proposal on those terms?”
“Very well. On those terms I think you are mistaken. No one could derive happiness from seeing someone they love suffer, being powerless to help. That will be my fate, sir, and I would spare both of us the pain of it. For I should much rather meet my end without being forced to witness the suffering of my loved ones.”
“Your end? Good God, you speak as though it is upon you this very moment! You may live another ten years, if not more—”
“Or a great deal less!”
“Is that not reason enough, therefore, to make the very most of whatever time you have?”
“Yes, and I fully intend to do so! But I had much rather spend my time in peace and simple enjoyments than marry and disappoint you. For someone who used to see so clearly the obstacles to our union, Mr Darcy, you appear wantonly blind to them now. I could not spend a Season in town. I could not host dinners or balls. I could not visit your tenants or entertain your family. I am fit for nothing! And once you realised it, you would very quickly resent your choice.”
“I never would,” Mr Darcy intoned without hesitation in a voice of sincere emotion, and Elizabeth, who had been in full flow, was checked. “You are my choice to be my wife because I love you. Having you beside me would be all the happiness I should ever want from life. I should like nothing more than to spend our days at Pemberley. I do not think there is anyone’s company I would rather have more than yours.”
“Mr Darcy!” Elizabeth protested, much moved. “You do not play fair. I am trying to be sensible—to spare us both the heartache and the pain of disappointment and regret.”
“I think you are afraid, Elizabeth,” he countered, “and I do not blame you for that. The future must indeed feel terrifying and uncertain. But please, do not answer me now. I had not intended to speak to you of my intentions so soon, and I have no intention of pressing you to make a decision.”
“That is to say, you do not accept what I have said to you today as my final word,” Elizabeth retorted.
Mr Darcy smiled ruefully. “I do not wish to doubt you or imply that I question your convictions. Rather, I hope that, with time, you may come to view the matter differently.”
Elizabeth lapsed into thought and stared at the passing scenery. Mr Darcy waited patiently for her to reach a decision.
“Very well,” she conceded at last. “I can make no argument to that, and I should be an ungrateful wretch indeed not to feel the compliment of your persistence.”
“I go to such lengths only for you.”
“When we spoke that night at Netherfield about your stubbornness, I never suspected that one day I would regard it as a virtue.”
They shared a laughing look and, as they were arriving at their destination, began to speak of other things. The air between them might have been awkward, but strangely they both felt more at ease for having finally addressed the subject that had been hanging over them for so long. Elizabeth knew she had much thinking to do, and Mr Darcy was quietly persuaded that his persistence would one day bear fruit.
We would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts? Do you have any questions for Helen? Do you think Darcy is hopeful? Since he is “quietly persuaded,” I believe he has hope! What about Lizzy? She has much to ponder, indeed.
Meryton Press is giving away two eBooks of In Essentials. Please leave a comment below to be entered. The giveaway is worldwide and will end at midnight, central time on the 17th of October.
The In Essentials Blog Tour begins tomorrow, October 11th. We hope you will follow along, read more excerpts, get a recipe, and learn more about Helen. The Meryton Press Facebook page will have the stops with links each day. See you there.
The links are also included in the blog tour schedule below.
Blog Tour Schedule
October 11 From Pemberley to Milton
October 12 Savvy Verse & Wit
October 13 My Jane Austen Book Club
October 14 My Vices and Weaknesses
October 15 Babblings of a Bookworm
October 16 Donadee’s Corner
There will be more eBooks given away during the blog tour, so be sure to visit each stop.