Scylla and Charybdis in my belly here aren't my only work in progress. I'm trying to finish up Project Incubator and Project Midnight in Austenland at the same time. Here's the prologue for the latter:
No one who knew Charlotte Constance Kinder since her youth would suppose her born to be a heroine. She was a practical girl even from infancy, only fussing as much as was necessary and exhibiting no alarming opinions. Common wisdom asserts that heroes are born from great calamity, and yet our Charlotte’s early life was pretty standard. Not only did her parents avoid fatal accidents, they never once locked her up in a hidden attic room.
At the very least, she might have been a tragic beauty. Though she eventually grew into her largest inheritance (her nose), she was never the sort of girl who provoked men to do dangerous things. She was...nice. Even her closest friends, many of whom liked her a great deal, couldn’t come up with a more spectacular adjective. Charlotte was nice.
Eventually Charlotte met a nice man named James, whom she was convinced she loved passionately. They had a very nice wedding and two children who seemed perfect to their mother and adequate to everyone else. After raising them to the point that they no longer needed her constant vigilance to stay alive, Charlotte wondered, what now? That’s when Charlotte Constance Kinder, who was nice, discovered that she was also clever.
She started a web-based business, grew it to seven employees, then sold it for an embarrassing profit. With Lu and Beckett in elementary school, she had time, so why not start another? Her retirement fund was flush. She gave to charities. She bought James a Jaguar (the car, not the cat--he was allergic to cats) and took the kids on cruises. Charlotte was content--toes-in-the-sand, cheek-kiss, hot-cocoa-breath content. Her childhood dreams had come true: husband, family, success. She wonderfully, blissfully, ignorantly reflected that life just couldn’t get any better.
Until it didn’t.
We may never know what turned once-nice James away. Was it the fact that his wife was making more money than he was? (A lot more.) Or that his wife had turned out to be clever? (That can be inconvenient.) Had Charlotte changed? Had James? Was marriage just too hard to maintain in this crazy, shifting world?
Charlotte hadn’t thought so. But then, Charlotte had been wrong before.
She was wrong when she assumed her husband’s late nights were work-related. She was wrong when she blamed his increasingly sullen behavior on an iron deficiency. She was wrong when she believed the coldness in their bed could be fixed with flannel sheets.
Poor Charlotte. So nice, so clever, so wrong.
Charlotte came to believe that no single action kills a marriage. From the second it begins to fail, there are a thousand shots at changing course. She invested her whole soul in each of those second chances that failed anyway. It was like being caught in her own personal Groundhog’s Day, only without the delightful Bill Murray to make her laugh. She woke up, marveled anew at the bone-crushing weight in her chest, dressed in her best clothes as if for war, and set out with a blazing hope that today would be different, today James would remember he loved her and come home to the family. Today she would win her marriage, and her life, back again.
Eventually the day came when Charlotte sat in the messy ruins of her marriage and felt as weak as a cooked noodle. She would never be nice or clever enough. Hope had been beaten to death. She dried her eyes, shut down her heart, and plunged herself into an emotion coma. So much easier not to feel.
Once numbness takes over a damaged heart, a miracle is required to restart it. Things would prove rough for our heroine. The only hope to pull her out again was Jane Austen.