Birthday Wishes with Austen Author Sharon Lathan
Today I am so excited to have another of my fellow Austen Author coming back to join me for Coffee - the beautiful and talented Sharon Lathan! She has an extra-special post for you today, all about birthdays (and I'm always up for cake), but she has a PRESENT for us! We get a sneak peek at her current work in progress with an exciting excerpt! She might not like my New Orleans coffee with chicory, but her stories are a special blend sure to please!
Birthday Wishes with Sharon Lathan
|Lathan Espresso Bar|
How fun to be here with my Austen Author pal Colette! I have been extremely busy these past couple of months, so sitting down to share a cup of coffee with Colette and her readers is a most pleasant vision. I have to say, however, that I am a major coffee-snob. It isn’t my fault! Just take a look at the espresso bar in my house. My barista husband has spoiled me! Please don’t be offended if I bring a latte from home, okay?
*Sharon takes a sip* Ah, delicious. Now that the caffeine is humming through my veins, let’s talk about birthdays. Whoa! Where did that come from? Well, as it happens my birthday is in four days, and while I would be just fine with forgetting all about it, I know my family won’t let me. My husband will insist on taking me to dinner and giving me a way-too-expensive gift, and my kids will honor the day in some way.
So between that reality, the novel I am writing at the moment (more on that in a bit), and that I have done a bit of research into the history of birthday celebrations for a past novel, a birthday-themed post felt right.
A person’s day of birth has been marked and remembered since the dawn of time, in nearly every culture. However, with calendars unreliable, or nonexistent, precise dates weren’t necessarily known. And, unless the person was special in some way - a king or some such - it often wasn’t deemed important to note an exact date. Most often a person’s birth was remembered in a general sense, and tied to religious rites, such as coming-of-age rituals like a Jewish Bar Mitzvah, rather than a yearly celebration.
This isn’t a universal fact, of course. The Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks possessed advanced calendars, and they loved to party! In Genesis we read, “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast [BIRTHDAY PARTY] unto all his servants...”
Loads of historical references scattered about reveal that birthdays were celebrated, but the reason had more to do with superstitions than cheerful revelry. Pagan beliefs maintained that evil spirits were particularly drawn to a person on their day of birth, and especially if they were important. Parties, or “feast days” such as Pharaoh in the Genesis account, were held as a way to protect them from harm by surrounding with friends and family. Giving gifts of food and merry-making increased the good thoughts and well wishes, warding off the evil spirits. Our modern-day noisemakers are attributed to this superstition.
Over the centuries the obvious superstitions died away, but the outline remains. Think of the “Happy Birthday” song. Not written until 1893, the emphasis is on happy wishes, and there is still the and many more line tacked on. Think, too, of candles and blowing out for secret wishes.
Decorated sweet cakes were once an offering to the Greek goddess Artemis on the day set aside for her birth. They were round and adorned with candles to represent the glowing moon. Germans are credited with layering cakes, placing one candle in the exact
center as a “light of life”, and beginning to celebrate the birthdays of young children. They called it Kinderfest, and believed that the smoke carried birthday wishes up to heaven.
|"Many Happy Returns of the Day" 1856|
The reason I learned this fascinating history is because long ago I wanted to write a scene where Lizzy Bennet surprised Mr. Darcy with a birthday celebration. Nice idea, but I had to get my facts straight first. That scene took place during their betrothal period, and ended up in my second novel, Loving Mr. Darcy, as a flashback before the chapter where Mr. Darcy honors his new wife with a lavish birthday celebration including twenty gifts. That Mr. Darcy is sooo romantic!
How all this ties up with the here and now is that after eight novels carrying on the life of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy as a married couple, my current work-in-progress is backtracking to the engagement months I only hinted about before. Such as in the above mentioned birthday scene. My new novel will explore the time in greater depth, and cover previously written scenes from a new point of view. Very fun!
Here is a small sample from my as-yet unnamed novel. It has nothing to do with birthdays, but hopefully you will enjoy it nevertheless.
“You are a difficult man to read, Mr. Darcy, as I have tragically learned. Then, just as I begin to believe I am deciphering the subtleties of your body language, facial expressions, vocal tones, and the like, you change yet again! And how am I to predict how you will react to a situation when you are inconsistent?”
“Perhaps I could aid in solving this serious dilemma if I had examples?”
Lizzy barreled on, completely missing his teasing inflection. “You entered Longbourn tense and cold as stone, yet fidgeting as you do when nervous. It frightened me near to death! I thought you had changed your mind. Then,” she rushed on, not giving him a chance to reply, “you seemed normal enough through dinner, even flirting a bit with Kitty—“
“I certainly was not flirt—“
“—and it was a relief to see you comfortable with my family, but when my father all but forced an indeterminate delay on our wedding, I expected you to be angry. Heaven knows I was! Instead you do not seem to care one way or another, staring at the stars and making jokes. Jokes! And your face…”
Darcy grasped onto her hands and pulled her toward him. Since he was still sitting on the low wall, they were eye level. Between the sparkling gaiety visible as he stared at her, the rumbling laughter passing through his lips, and nearness of his body, Lizzy stuttered to a halt.
“Life with you will never be boring, that is for certain. And I mean that in the most wonderful way. What is it about my face?”
The whispered words, along with the rest, incited a deluge of tingles through her muscles. “I… I cannot place it in words. And not just your face, but your entire being. You are… relaxed.”
“I am happy, Elizabeth. You are seeing the man, the true me, who is deeply in love with you, and ecstatic beyond words that you have agreed to share your life with me.” He pressed his lips to each of her hands, the kisses barely brushing her skin yet sending jolts up both arms. “I suppose it will be a typical pose when with you, so try to adjust.”
The teasing tone wasn’t lost to her this time, although the second round of kisses, these a bit firmer, were extremely distracting. “So…” she cleared her throat, “why so tense and cold when you arrived?”
“Do you want me to answer honestly?” She nodded. “Very well.” He stopped kissing her hands, his eyes again touched with a sharp glint. “The truth is that the moment I laid eyes on you my desire to cross the room, enfold you in my arms, and kiss you unceasingly was so powerful that it was necessary for me to clamp down on every muscle in my body, and look away from your face. A second longer and I would have succumbed to the urge. I am not sure even Mr. Bennet bashing me over the head or shooting me would have stopped me once I started.”
“I… see.” Lizzy was sure the blush had spread to her toes. “And now?”
“And now I have re-exerted my self-control. For the present. I shall have to be on constant guard.” He smiled before resuming the tender kisses to her hands. “I pray that confession of my weakness, and intensity, where you are concerned does not frighten, Elizabeth. Hopefully it eases your mind, and convinces you that nothing will cause me to change my mind about us?”
“I am convinced, and not frightened, Mr. Darcy. I am shocked to hear such lengthy speeches cross your lips, however.”
Again he laughed, the amused low rumble initiating fresh flutters inside her belly. “The day of surprises and strange flipping of our personalities continues, it seems. Except for the flirting accusation. That is a skill I never mastered when it was acceptable, as you can attest considering you are the only woman I tried to charm.”
“Oh my! You must be awful indeed because I never detected behavior remotely flirtatious! Knowing you are a man who speaks truthfully, Mr. Darcy, assures me on that count as well.”
“I am relieved at your assurance, Elizabeth. Do not doubt me or my conviction, please. Even… before, when I proposed so insultingly, as you were right to forcefully point out, my heart and soul belonged to you. I have never wavered in my feelings. Not once. Now,” he enfolded her hands between his palms, “if that is the extent of your vacillating emotions, then all is well. In general I am sensing favorable currents between us, Elizabeth, but persistently addressing me as ‘Mr. Darcy’ is beginning to erode my peace.”
About Sharon Lathan
Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga eight volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Sharon began writing in 2005 and her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was published in 2009. Her eighth novel was released in April 2013, The Passions of Dr. Darcy, an epic tale of an English physician in Georgian Era India.
For more information about Sharon, the Regency Era, and her novels, visit her website/blog at: www.sharonlathan.net or search for her on Facebook and Twitter.