The Plight of Unprotected Women

Please, welcome one of this month’s featured author’s M.K. Baxley, author of Veronica’s pick The Mistress’s Black Veil. And don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a copy. Details at the end of this post.


I’d like to begin by thanking Veronica Ibarra and the ladies of Dark Jane for choosing The Mistress’s Black Veil for their November featured title. In her email, Veronica asked me to discuss my interest in Pride and Prejudice and where my inspiration for The Mistress’s Black Veil came from, both of which are topics I always enjoy talking about.

My initial interest in Pride and Prejudice originated from a course-study I taught to my then high school daughter, whom I was home schooling at the time. My daughter has been obsessed with classical literature, particularly 19th century works and mythology, since she was old enough to listen to the many stories I read to her and her brothers during story hour at our house. Therefore, when the time came to study British lit, I bought my daughter the entire set of Jane Austen’s works.

She read each one with enthusiasm, and as she read, we discussed them. Eventually we searched for the movies so that we might compare how they related to the novels. When we came to the BBC/A&E version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, both my daughter and I were awestruck.

The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the first film I had seen that not only stayed true to the book, but brought it to life. After that, I had to know more, and so I began to read Jane Austen fan fiction at all the sites and bought every book written.

After reading for about two years, thoughts began to play in my head. I wanted to know what Jane Austen’s characters would be like today if they had been real people. The more I thought about it, the more the stories began to take form until finally I sat down and began to write. My first novel answered my initial questions: who were Miss Austen’s characters and what would their descendants be like today? With that novel, (The Cumberland Plateau and the one that followed, Dana Darcy), The Modern Pemberley Series was born with two more books planned. But there is more. My first novel contained the seeds for what would become The Mistress’s Black Veil.

The Cumberland Plateau begins with a prologue linking the Regency characters to their modern counterparts through the tale of a young woman forced into one of London’s famous brothels in Soho Square in 1789. That young woman’s narrative is based on the true story I discovered when researching my own family. Yes, I had an ancestor of English decent who was a “working woman” and, as fate would have it, she met a man much like Mr. Darcy. My great-great-great uncle would fall in love with her and become her protector and rescuer, eventually becoming her husband when she was five months pregnant, tearing his family apart in the process. That prologue, based on my Aunt Jane’s life, became the initial inspiration for The Mistress’s Black Veil.

The Mistress’s Black Veil was also inspired by my research into Jane Austen’s life and times. Miss Austen was well aware of the plight of unprotected women and wrote about it in the off-page story of Colonel Brandon’s first love, Eliza, in Sense and Sensibility. I would later discover, while drafting my current novel, A Man in Want of a Wife, that Jane herself had a connection to that world through her great uncle, James Brydges, the first Duke of Chandos. His Grace bought a woman as chattel, kept her as his mistress, and later married her.

At the time I was drafting The Mistress’s Black Veil, I was also watching movies from the time period which dealt with the subject. One of those movies was Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. It was from there that I got the style for my story, using an omniscient narrative. And lastly, the black veil itself is inspired by Nathanial’s Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil.

If you would like to know more about my writing, I would encourage you to check out my other novels: The Cumberland Plateau and Dana Darcy. Both are written from a Southern lady’s perspective. They take place in England, the mountains of Tennessee, and the old city of Charleston, South Carolina with all its Southern charm. Both books are steeped in tradition, family legacy, and Jane Austen as they attempt to tell the tale of the modern Darcys. The Cumberland Plateau begins their story and Dana Darcy continues where the Cumberland leaves off, beginning six years later. Dana Darcy is a dark, Southern Gothic novel based on folklore from the Carolina Lowcountry. It is my favorite of all I’ve written.

Again, thank you for inviting me to post and for choosing The Mistress’s Black Veil for your November group read.


M. K. Baxley is the author of The Modern Pemberley Series consisting of The Cumberland Plateau and Dana Darcy, and The Regency Series consisting of The Mistress’s Black Veil. She is currently working on Fitzwilliam Darcy: A Man in Want of a Wife, her second instalment of The Regency Series, scheduled to be released sometime in 2013.

Ms. Baxley was born in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s but spent her formative years with her parents on her grandfather’s farm in Falls Mill, Tennessee, where her ancestors were among the original pioneers of the new frontier, now known as Tennessee, in 1803. She attended Tennessee Technological University in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau, earning a BS degree in Computer Science. Upon graduation, she worked in the aerospace industry for four years before leaving her career to care for her children.

Ms. Baxley and her husband currently reside in Alabama. They have five grown children and three grandchildren. Their oldest son, a graduate of Auburn University, is currently serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Having completed three tours of duty in Iraq, one as a battery commander, he is presently stationed in Japan. Their second son also serves his country in the U.S. Marine Corps and is currently stationed at the Pentagon. Their daughter and third son have both graduated from college and have since moved on with their careers. Their youngest son is still at university.

Ms. Baxley enjoys gardening, reading, cooking, needlework, and sewing. She has completed many personal designs in children’s clothing, and though she lives in the city, she has often said she is most at home in the woods with a good book and a hound as her companion. Ms. Baxley is a self-described genteel classical lady from rural Tennessee.

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