Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exclusive Interview with Patrick McGillvary and Elizabeth Elliot from Mercy's Embrace

We're closing in fast on the final day (Thursday, October 28 at midnight) of the 3-book giveaway of Mercy's Embrace, by Laura Hile. To enter, leave a comment on this or the previous post and include your email address. This giveaway is for U.S. only.

To whet your appetite I wanted to share with you this scene that Laura just provided in which Admiral Patrick McGillvary and Miss Elizabeth Elliot condescend to answer my questions regarding their relationship. Cue Dating Game theme song please...

Elizabeth's sister apologized profusely, but McGillvary scarcely heard. Peace and quiet were what he needed, and soon! But the state of the Musgrove household was such that these were not likely to be found anywhere but the cellar! At last, still talking, Mary Musgrove left him alone in a shabby workroom, but not before giving the leather packet a longing look. It had been delivered to McGillvary by special messenger, and the strained expression on Elizabeth’s face had wrung his heart. He had no such sympathy for Mary Musgrove. He rather enjoyed closing the door on her.

The contents of the packet were much as he expected. Admiral Blankenship had been casting out hints for some time; this summons was hardly a surprise. Even so, it would have been helpful to know what the man was up to. McGillvary read through the orders several times. And then he noticed the letter.

It was heavily sealed and, unless he missed his guess, had been written by a woman’s hand. The paper, much stained, was particularly fine. But it was the postmark that caught McGillvary’s attention. His eyes narrowed. Had this letter come from the American West? How was this possible? Immediately McGillvary broke the seals, spread the sheet, and searched for the signature. “Who the devil,” he muttered at last, “is Jane Greensmith?”

He began to read … and at once looked about for a seat. The workroom’s only chair was occupied. “Out you go, sirrah,” McGillvary said to the cat and tipped the chair. He sat and went on with his reading. And then he began to laugh. For here was a list of questions, and what questions they were! A court martial could scarcely be more thorough!

What did you like best and least about the time you spent "slumming" as Patrick Gill?
Slumming? McGillvary worked to recall the meaning of this term. Slum, as in a back room? One that opened onto an alley? He had met with Elizabeth in such circumstances, now that he thought on it. And had he enjoyed it? Certainly at first – although what business it was of Ms Greensmith’s he could not say. Even so, he had to smile. The fine Miss Elliot, reduced to taking tea with a lowly clerk! How he had laughed. But later, after their meetings had become something more, the lies had multiplied. How he’d hated them, and himself.

McGillvary didn’t much care for these questions. Even so, he was intrigued. He went on to read the next one.

Would you advise deceit and disguise to other gentlemen as an effective means of procuring not only the hand but the love of the lady you wish to marry?
McGillvary shook his head. Clearly Ms Greensmith was a madwoman! Marriage, much like service to the Crown, was based on loyalty and trust. And yet, he reflected, it was a curious thing. Without knowledge of a suitor’s wealth and social status, a woman was less prone to pretense and flattery. McGillvary sat for some minutes thinking. Then he went hunting for a pencil and paper to answer Ms Greensmith.

“As to courting and deceit,” he wrote, “I would advise that a gentleman not wear his best raiment. Or drive a fine – or even passable-looking! – vehicle. The object of his affection must love him for himself, not for the comforts he is able to afford. As well, I have found that the sight of a gentleman’s handsome house, in particular, brings female ambitiousness to fever pitch.”

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live? Where would Miss Elliot choose?
McGillvary did not know how to reply. It was difficult to make people understand that he cared little for any particular spot, being more attracted to the opportunity or challenge offered by a location. Belsom Park, his family’s estate in Bath, was a conventional answer. The latter part of the question was easier. “Miss Elliot,” he wrote, “would doubtless say that she prefers Kellynch Hall to any residence. But that answer, I fear, would be made from habit and family loyalty. She has lately expressed a preference for London.” He paused to smile. “Or even,” he added, “a ship of the line.”

Can a house have too many looking glasses?
McGillvary’s lips twitched. “Not,” he wrote, “in a bathing chamber shared with one’s wife.”

If you were to fight a duel, say with someone related to Miss Elliot, which weapon would you choose?
By this, of course, Ms Greensmith meant William Elliot. “When engaging a relation of Elizabeth’s in combat,” McGillvary wrote, “one must first ascertain whether it is to be a battle of swords or wits.” Neither presented much difficulty when it came to the Elliots, but he could hardly say so to Ms Greensmith.

“As to choice of weapon,” he went on, “the sword is preferable to the pistol. Not that I am unskilled with the latter, but there is only one shot. A sword allows more opportunities for engagement, as well as greater gratification.” The fact that sword fighting was more fun because of the mess McGillvary decided not to share.

How did naval life prepare you for your courtship of Miss Elliot?
McGillvary rolled his eyes. How many pages did Ms Greensmith expect him to fill? Instead he hunted in a pocket for his notebook. He had a quotation of Gibbon’s that would answer nicely. “The wind and waves,” he copied out, “are always on the side of the ablest navigators.”

Is marrying the love of your life worth it if it means having to deal with her wretched family forever?
McGillvary did not hesitate. “Absolutely worth it,” he wrote. “Fortunately, Elizabeth’s family estate is buried in an out-of-the-way spot. The challenge will be in convincing Sir Walter Elliot to remain there.”

Whose family is the more trying, yours or Miss Elliot's?
McGillvary drew a long breath. Ms Greensmith must live in a nunnery, he decided, for clearly she had little understanding of family matters. “Whoever is in need of the most money is the most trying,” he wrote.

If you had met Miss Elliot when you were a young man, would you have fallen in love with her then?
“I fear I would have had little appreciation for Elizabeth’s strength of character,” McGillvary wrote. “As a young man I was set on making a life apart from my father and, most particularly, his second wife. Elizabeth, who is nearly ten years my junior, was at that time enamored with the idea of marrying her cousin.”

If you had meet Miss Elliot as a married man, would you have pursued her?
McGillvary grimaced. Ms Greensmith did not understand the rules of this game. He chewed on the end of the pencil as he thought. “Unmarried woman,” he wrote at last, “are rarely pursued for the purposes of dalliance. The risks are too great. As well, there is little sport in breaking an innocent heart. No, in these unfortunate alliances, both parties are married, and both are involved in the game of chase. And in the tidal wave of consequence, which is not only ugly, but bitterly and powerfully far-reaching.”

What is the thing in life you regret the most?
“The involvements I refer to above comprise the greatest regret. Second, that I did not in the pages of the Mercy’s Embrace actually punch William Elliot.

Do you think you ever would have thawed Miss Elliot's manner to you had you not assumed the guise of Patrick Gill?
McGillvary wrote decisively. “Certainly. You can hardly expect me to admit otherwise.”

How do you think Miss Elliot will adapt to her role as "Mamma" to your Cleora?
McGillvary gave a sharp intake of breath and dropped the pencil. Elizabeth as Cleora’s mama? How was it that he had never thought of this? “Oh my word,” he grumbled, as he dropped to his knees to hunt for it. “Elizabeth as mama! We are in the suds!”

Meanwhile Elizabeth Elliot was in the front parlor, holding a letter given her by Charles Musgrove. It was from a woman Elizabeth had never met. Benumbed by the long journey, as well as the strain of seeing the express packet delivered to Patrick, Elizabeth could only stare. The questions were both pert and presuming, but somehow she could not toss the letter aside. Against her will she continued reading.

Admiral McGillvary spent a great deal of time with you disguised as a poor clerk. If you had the opportunity to pretend to be someone you're not, who would you chose and why?
Elizabeth pursed her lips. This showed how little the sender of the letter knew! Why would she pretend to be someone else now that everything was at last coming right? Not that assuming a disguise would have done any good, for she had had no money to carry it off! Patrick would amuse himself by pretending to be poor, like the princes in fairy tales. But poverty, Elizabeth had discovered, was vastly overrated.

If she were to pretend to be anyone, she would doubtless choose the Viscountess Dalrymple. But Lady Dalrymple was both prideful and unattractive … and also, Elizabeth now realized, rather isolated and lonely. It would not have been a happy venture.

Would you advise deceit and disguise to other gentlemen as an effective means of procuring not only the hand but the love of the lady?
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. Why, this letter was sent to the wrong Elliot! Her loathsome cousin, William Elliot, was the master of wooing ladies by deceit and disguise. This question would be better answered by Penelope Clay!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live? Where would Admiral McGillvary choose?
What a question! She, of course, would choose to live with Patrick, wherever that may be. And he would say the same.

Can a house have too many looking glasses?
Elizabeth turned the letter over to look at the direction. Was the sender acquainted with her father? How he would enjoy answering this question! But on this subject Elizabeth was in agreement with Lady Russell: Looking glasses were the province of the very young. In every other woman – herself included! – they revealed too many unflattering flaws.

How did life with your sisters and father prepare you for your future as the Admiral's wife?
Elizabeth sighed heavily. Diplomacy was needed when dealing with Anne; combat tactics with Mary. And her father required not only flattery and compliments, but amused responses to jokes and sallies.

Do you get seasick?
Both of Elizabeth’s brows went up. Why, the Elliots were never sick; everyone knew that! Her father had only pretended to be ill to avoid bill collectors.

Have you ever traveled outside of England? Do you enjoy travel?
Here she experienced a stab of regret. Aside from trips to London with her father and the occasional journey to Bath, she had traveled nowhere. It was a lowering thought.

You have had several role models of mothers in your life--your mother, Lady Russell, Mrs. Musgrove, your sister Mary. What kind of a mother doing you see yourself being to Cleora?
What kind of mother would she be to Cleora? A shopping mother, she decided. No, she would do better. She would stand by Cleora during her first agonizing season as debutante, guiding and directing her through the maze of social intricacies. She would not leave the girl to fend for herself, as her own father had done.

If you had meet Admiral McGillvary when he was a young man, would he have fallen in love with you?
Elizabeth put up her chin. Of course he would have.

If you had met Admiral McGillvary when he was a married man and he pursued you, how would you have responded?
This question was more to the point, and Elizabeth squirmed in her chair. Certainly she would have fallen in love with Patrick, but to what end? Nothing could have come of it – no engagement, no marriage, no romance. Only private heartbreak. In this her lot would have been even more miserable than Anne’s.

Would Admiral McGillvary have ever won you over had he not assumed the guise of Patrick Gill?
He would certainly have commanded attention, Elizabeth decided, for he was rich! And as such, he was just what she was looking for in a husband! But would she have come to love him as truly as she now did? Regretfully, no.

What is the thing in life you regret the most?
Elizabeth drew a long breath, for her regrets were many. Following her father in his headlong pursuit of vanity and foolishness came to mind first. But she had also abandoned her mother’s principles and example.

What is the thing in life you treasure the most?
The answer to this came flooding forward: The chance to start again, to live life on new and better terms.

Are you relieved that you are finally "off the shelf?"
Elizabeth smiled ruefully. Aside from the present scene, newly written, she had been left on the final page of the book standing on a country road, unmarried. This hardly constituted being “off the shelf.”

Are you a dog person or a cat person?
This last question brought a smile. Thanks to Sweetie, Elizabeth now knew that she was, after all, a dog person. So long as someone else fed the dog, bathed the dog, trained the dog, cleaned up after the dog...


  1. Priceless! I would have rolled out of my seat laughing, but I just had to keep reading! If only all interviews were this good! I also enjoyed your Amazon review of the first book in the series. I have liked Anne Elliot without really considering how "perfect" Austen makes her, since the whole motivation of the book is her "mistake." But you have a point. I'm also just now getting that this is a Cinderella variant! Thanks, Jane!

  2. Can a house have too many looking glasses?
    McGillvary’s lips twitched. “Not,” he wrote, “in a bathing chamber shared with one’s wife.”

    That's our boy!

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  4. This is FABULOUS! What a clever approach to an interview. My husband is upstairs negotiating with the heinous cable people and must be wondering what on Earth I have to cackle about. I don't think I'll ever get enough of these characters, especially McGillvary, but as I am so fortunate as to already have all three volumes, you need not enter me in the giveaway. I will, however, throw up a blog post about it. If nothing else, people need to read this. Thanks for the laughs!

  5. Ahh! How I love these two! Thank you for sharing your wonderful talents Jane and Laura! Fantastic questions and such delightful and personal responses! This was a real treat!

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