Have you ever wondered about arranged marriages? It must be awkward to build a life with someone you barely know or don’t like. It must be trying to submit to duty, especially if your heart lies elsewhere. In Jane Austen’s day arranged marriages were still common, although the trend favored seeking affection in marriage over building family alliances and increasing landownership. In Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice two cousins—Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anne de Bourgh—have been living with the prospect of an “arranged marriage” for years. In fact, they have been engaged since their infancy.

How did Darcy and Anne feel about their engagement during their youth? When did they learn of it? What did they say to each other about it? Did they ever agree to thwart their mothers’ wishes? I’ve written a story that addresses these questions. In my new novel, Cousin Anne—due out in January—Anne is seventeen and Darcy is nineteen. Both are in London with their families in November and December of 1803.

I've often thought Darcy and Anne were as disinterested as the young couple in this scene titled "The Marriage Settlement" from William_Hogarth's series "Marriage a la Mode" (Source: Wikimedia Commons PD-1923)

I’ve often thought Darcy and Anne were as disinterested in each other as the young couple in this scene titled “The Marriage Settlement” from William Hogarth’s series “Marriage a-la-mode” (Source: Wikimedia Commons PD-1923)

The Darcys have included George Wickham in their London family gatherings. Mr. Wickham is Mr. Darcy’s godson and the son of his family’s steward. Not surprisingly, Mr. Wickham makes trouble from the beginning—for both Darcy and Anne. He and Darcy have never gotten along and the two clash in Cousin Anne. It doesn’t help that Anne is often in his company and grows increasingly beguiled by his handsome face and charm.

Where Darcy has long known of his engagement to his cousin, Anne has only suspected it. Not until this London trip does she learn the truth of it. On being told of her family’s expectation that she marry Darcy, she makes two mistakes: she honestly reports her feelings on the matter and she succumbs to George Wickham’s charm.

It seems trouble follows her everywhere, with her bad behavior giving rise to a steady stream of apologies. Just when one might think she knew her limits, she falls prey to Wickham’s affection and risks her reputation in the process.

Poor Anne. After this London trip, her life will never be quite the same.

UP NEXT (I hope): the book cover for Cousin Anne