Hello, my friends! I’m delighted to have Shannon Winslow on the blog with her new book, Colonel Brandon ...in His Own Words.
...in his own words
By Shannon Winslow
Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.
Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?
This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.
Colonel Brandon is such an intriguing character. We learn from what he says and does in Sense and Sensibility that he is kind and honorable. But he is also silent and grave. So much of what shapes his character and current outlook happens prior to the scope of the original book, things only mentioned briefly – primarily his relationship with Eliza and his years in India. To really get to know the man – to tell his full story – I obviously needed to delve deeper into these and other areas, which was a total pleasure. That’s what I love doing best: spending more time with characters I adore and filling in the blanks in their stories!
Today, I have a brand new excerpt for you, based on a pivotal moment in Colonel Brandon’s life. And of course, he tells it in his own words:
What can I say about Eliza that would do her justice? She was the sun, moon, and stars to me…
I cannot imagine what my childhood would have been like without her. My mother was dear to me as well, of course, but her time was much in demand elsewhere. A series of nursery maids and private tutors hovered nearby, to none of whom I ever developed a tender attachment. Too many years separated my siblings from myself for any true camaraderie between us. But Eliza and I were of an age, of compatible temperaments, and in a common state of need. She had nobody else and neither did I. In many ways, we lived in a world of our own, especially in the early years, taking all of our meals and lessons together sitting opposite each other in the school room, where a kick under the table or a conspiratorial look between us served as secret communication…
Eliza had come to us in her infancy, the orphaned offspring of a distant Brandon cousin, now become my father’s ward. So we were raised together like brother and sister. And yet I always knew she was not my sister in reality. I believe I would have known it even without being informed of the fact. From my earliest recollections, my young heart told me that Eliza was something more, something special, something unique – not a sister but a friend of the bosom, my sweet partner and confidante, the perfectly designed counterpart to my own soul.
In short, I cannot remember a time when I did not love her. Who could have helped it in my place – so tender and affectionate as she was, so giving and vulnerable?
I was drawn to Eliza, not because she was exactly like myself, but because she was different, irresistibly so. Whereas I was naturally shy and reserved, she was open, artless, eager, and warm. While I lived confined by what my mind told me was true and logical, Eliza knew no such bounds. She was light and air – a free spirit – and she frequently took me along on her flights of fancy. In exchange, I balanced and steadied her, I believe, keeping her feet planted on solid ground… but only when absolutely necessary.
As long as we stayed clear of my father – something we became very skilled at doing – Delaford was our own private playground, indoors but especially out. The great but forbidden garden wall would have been an irresistible temptation to nearly any child of a certain age. My brother walked it first, of course, and then he dared me to do likewise. I was too young at the time and shortly tumbled off – fortunately, into the brambles on one side and not the rocky drop-off on the other. I came away bruised and scratched to pieces but otherwise unharmed. A few years later, though, both Eliza and I had mastered the feat.
There were lovely fruit trees to climb and to stuff ourselves from in season; stew-ponds and a lazy canal to float ourselves and our toy boats upon; and a place in the old yew arbor – we called it our fort – where we could spy on horsemen and carriages passing on the nearby turnpike road, imagining them enemy troops. Between the two of us, Eliza and I never lacked for ideas of games to occupy our leisure hours.
I cannot say what age we were when we first agreed we would marry. It seemed like a foregone conclusion from the start, something kept secreted between ourselves but never questioned. As we matured in years, our feelings did as well. My love for Eliza – now that of a young man for a young woman – knew no bounds, and she gave every proof of her equally fervent attachment to me. It would be only a matter of time; we would marry as soon as we were old enough to do so.
Then one sunny day when she was sixteen and I had recently had my seventeenth birthday, I found her weeping in the garden.
“What is it, Eliza?” I asked, sitting down beside her on the sparse grass beneath the mulberry tree.
At first she could say nothing; she only shook her head and cried all the more.
“Indeed, you must tell me, friend, or you will make me sick with worry. Say what the matter is so I may help you.”
Although professing to be worried, at first I was not. I had known Eliza, who was prone to bouts of excess sensibility, to occasionally suffer a fit of weeping over nothing more than seeing some small rodent taken to its demise by a hawk, or having an anticipated pleasure outing ruined by foul weather.
“Come now,” I continued in a teasing manor. “Tell me the truth; you are making all this fuss about nothing at all, only to get me to put my arm about your shoulders. Is not that so? There, I have done as you wished, so smile at your success, why don’t you?”
Instead, she turned to cry into my shoulder, blubbering, “Oh, Christopher, it is the worst thing imaginable!”
“No, I cannot believe it is so,” I said, petting her hair, but less confident now. “Dry your eyes, and start at the beginning. Together we will see what can be done about it, whatever it is.”
A few minutes more and she was recovered enough to speak. “My uncle…” she began in faltering words. “Your father, that is… He has said that I must – Oh! How shall I tell you?”
I was genuinely troubled now. If my father was concerned in the business, it could not be good. “Steady, now. You know you can tell me anything, my dear Eliza.”
“He has told me that I must marry Max as soon as I am seventeen!” And she dissolved into wretched tears again.
I felt as if I had been kicked in the chest by a mule. I could not speak; I could barely breathe.
“I explained to him,” Eliza continued a minute later, “that I could not, that I was promised to marry you instead. But it made no difference to him, though I reasoned and cried and pleaded for mercy. He is determined that I will marry your brother and not you! He says it is my duty and what my father intended all along. Now you see why I am so distressed.”
I did indeed.
You know what happens. After a failed elopement, Eliza marries Max and Colonel Brandon is shipped off to India in the army. But now those events (and so many more, including the duel between Brandon and Willoughby) are brought to life in Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.
Buy: Amazon (paid link) in Kindle and paperback. Audio will be available soon.
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Congratulations to Shannon Winslow on the release of Colonel Brandon ... in His Own Words!
So, friends, what do you think? Are you excited about getting into Colonel Brandon’s brain and more of his backstory? Along with finding out more about Eliza? (Speaking of, poor Eliza! I’m devastated for her) Let us know in the comments!