Today I have the special privilege of introducing you to one of the new authors at Meryton Press. Her name is Lucy Knight, and she is an English lady who lives in France. Lucy has written a delightful and poignant Mansfield Park sequel, Maria Bertram’s Daughter. Before we talk much more about this novel and reveal its cover, let’s get to know Lucy a little better.
About the Author
Lucy Knight grew up in Whitby, North Yorkshire, now a tourist town but until recently a small and historic port which was known for shipbuilding, fishing (including whaling) and having an important Abbey. During her life she has moved around a great deal both in England and on the continent of Europe; she now lives in a tiny hamlet lost in the French countryside with two rescue dogs, two rescue chickens, an unknown number of bees and eight sheep.
Lucy has two children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in England.
Lucy has only recently begun to write historical fiction but she enjoys it so much she can’t stop! Her background is in comedy and drama, so there will always be some jokes and plenty of dialogue.
When she is not writing, Lucy teaches English and French, and she loves to take long walks with her dogs during which she revels in the birds, butterflies, trees and flowers which are so abundant in her part of France.
Lucy, it sounds like you live in a beautiful haven, a place of which dreams are made.
Now that you have met Lucy, shall we take a look at the back cover copy of her book?
She could be mistress of Mansfield Park. But is that what she wants?
An unwanted child—conceived in circumstances her mother would rather forget—Dorothea Henrietta Rose grows up solitary and neglected with her dissatisfied mother and unpleasant great-aunt Norris. Raised without the knowledge that her mother is her mother or that their occasional visitor, Sir Thomas Bertram, is her grandfather, she is forbidden ever to set foot in Mansfield Park.
Dorothea hopes for a happier life when sent away to school, but her difficulties are not over. She is obliged to make her way in the world as a governess and, thus, encounters human frailty, hypocrisy, good, and evil in her travels throughout England.
She meets the Crawfords—Henry and Mary (now Lady Drumroth)—and inevitably does the one thing she must not do: unwillingly makes herself known to the inhabitants of Mansfield Park.
What do you think? My heart hurts for little Dorothea Henrietta Rose. What about yours?
Are you ready to see the cover? Let’s begin with the front cover.
Isn’t the front cover lovely? Having read the story, the young woman in the painting makes a perfect Dorothea. I think you will agree when you’ve had a chance to read the book.
Are you ready to see the full wrapper? It was designed by the talented Ellen Pickels.
The painting on the back looks like it might be a scene taken from the excerpt below. I love the cover and its earth tone colors. It exudes warmth. The cover makes me want to look inside and find out more about Maria Bertram’s Daughter. What about you?
Lucy Knight would like to take a few minutes to tell us a little about the cover and why she chose the painting for the front cover.
Let’s Hear from the Author
Why Mrs Scott Moncrieff for the image of Dorothea?
I spent a long time looking through portraits of the period for someone who looked like Dorothea. This famous picture of Margaritta MacDonald by Raeburn (in the Sottish National Gallery) has exactly the look of wary optimism that Dorothea retains throughout the book, in my imagination.
The gallery blurb says: “This is one of Raeburn’s best-loved portraits, but virtually nothing is known of Margaritta MacDonald’s personality or life. She married Robert Scott Moncrieff, an Edinburgh wine-merchant and friend of Sir Walter Scott. She died in 1824 and her husband survived her for thirty years. During this time he kept her portrait permanently in his dining-room, and never remarried. The dating of the picture is a guess, based on stylistic grounds. In the last decade of his life Raeburn changed his style, partly influenced by Rembrandt’s art, and worked in a more rounded manner, presenting forms in deliberate soft focus.”
In other words, nothing is known about Margaritta apart from the fact that she married Mr Scott Moncrieff and has consequently come to be known always by his name. (One of the themes of the book is that most women have very little power).
You can see that she is holding something back, that she is unable to express herself fully; she is also looking to the future with hope and a belief in beauty and truth, I think.
I often describe Dorothea as “brown-skinned” in the book so a note on that… people with Scottish heritage are often naturally very pale (not much sun up North in Britain) but tan very quickly and easily. (Some do not. The redheads, in particular, tend to freckle). Dorothea had Crawford blood and Crawford is a Lowland Scots surname. It is often said to be because the Spanish Armada was wrecked off the coasts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland and the Spanish sailors intermarried with the local population. Or it may be a Celtic trait, no-one is certain.
A note on that – I have English, Scottish and Welsh heritage and when I did a DNA test recently, it came back with a large proportion of Scandinavian (from my Shetland forbears) and “Iberian peninsula”. So perhaps there’s something in the Armada theory.
Anyway, I think Margaritta is beautiful and luminous and I wanted her on the cover of my book!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research on the painting, Lucy. I found it all extremely interesting. The story, or rather the lack thereof, of Margaritta MacDonald, was fascinating in a sense. I find it intriguing that her husband, Robert Scott Moncrieff, never remarried and kept her painting always in his dining room. He must have loved her deeply. I wish we could know more about this woman whose facial expression is so eye-catching. I can see why it is one of Raeburn’s best loved portraits.
I think it is time for us to read the first excerpt from Maria Bertram’s Daughter. Shall we?
Dorothea had a project on hand to dam the little beck and create a “lake” so she could hunt for crayfish. William had taught her about catching them. She chose the largest stones she could carry and, having picked her spot, was arranging them to form a dam when she heard a low whistle; there was William, coming quietly through the bracken with his dog, Peter. In her delight, Dorothea dropped the stone she was carrying, and it fell into the stream with a mighty splash that soaked yet another pinafore.
They both knew they must talk quietly and not be seen. William, though he had never met “the ladies” had heard about them from several quarters, including sources he never should have overheard if it had been known that he was there. The servants gossiped, and the farmers’ wives in the market exchanged scandalised rumours; even his parents had been overheard in speculation about the ladies. His two older brothers had been chased away by Mrs Norris on several occasions, and he had been warned to keep away. They were known to be reclusive and petulant, and while the child was so small and dark and the ladies so large and fair it could not be assumed their relationship was close, yet it was queer, was it not, that they had taken her in and kept her so secluded? They were ladies who appeared the opposite of philanthropic.
“I say,” said William, “it is a bit thick that you cannot come to study with me any longer. It is very dull without you. Father is cross, and mother is sad. We miss you,” he added, which was quite something from a big boy of nearly ten to a small girl of nearly eight.
Dorothea felt the compliment exceedingly.
“But, William,” she said, and in her excitement raised her voice so that he had to hush her, “but, William,” she went on, more quietly, “I shall go to school! I shall learn everything there. I shall learn everything in every book in the school. It will be wonderful. You must not be sad. I daresay I shall come home for the holidays.”
Aww, what a sweet and hope-filled little girl. Doesn’t she sound delightful, even if she is living with “the ladies”?
Lucy Knight made Dorothea real, relatable, and believable. My heart broke for little Dorothea Henrietta Rose so many times, especially when she was in a horrid school. I was engaged with her character from the beginning and enjoyed living with her through her experiences. Even though this is a Mansfield Park sequel, it is different in many ways. It focuses more on the daughter than the other characters. They play their part, but Dorothea is the main character. This story has quite a few twists and turns that will surprise you. I hope you will love Dorothea and her story as much as I did.
Meryton Press is giving away 2 eBooks of Maria Bertram’s Daughter by Lucy Knight. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. We would love to hear from you. The worldwide giveaway ends at 12:00 midnight, Central Time on the 7th of April. Good luck to everyone.
The book is available for preorder March 31st and will be released for purchase April 11th.
The Blog Tour for Lucy Knight and Maria Bertram’s Daughter begins April 11th and runs through the 18th of April. We hope to see you at the various blogs. There will be several excerpts, an interview with Dorothea, and other exciting posts. As always, there will be a giveaway too. We look forward to hearing from you.
The blogs with links will be posted on the Meryton Press blog and Meryton Press Facebook page before the blog tour begins.