Pamela Hart’s new book is a Regency romance. To celebrate its imminent release we asked her to recap popular Regency romance series Sandition, ahead of the new season dropping at the end of March.
The second season of Jane Austen’s Sanditon is almost upon us. Forgotten what happened in the first series?
Never fear. Here are the highlights:
The basic premise
Daughter of the only-just-gentry, Charlotte Heywood, helps Mary and Tom Parker, a couple who have had a carriage accident. Despite her very messy hair, they invite her to stay with them at Sanditon, a new coastal town Tom Parker is building, where she meets lots of new and interesting people, falls in love and has her heart broken.
Enter the Byronic hero
Tom’s brother is the dark and brooding Sidney (a name I, a resident of Sydney, find hard to take seriously). Sidney screams LOVE INTEREST from his first appearance: not only is he handsome, he is unable to shave properly, and sports a five-o’clock shadow no matter what time of day it is. Also, he is rude and underestimates our heroine, an infallible sign of The Regency Hero. There is also a scene where Charlotte surprises Sidney bathing nude in the sea – this is clearly intended to be a step up from Mr Darcy and his wet shirt.
Sidney is the guardian of Georgiana Lambe, the very rich, bi-racial heiress from Antigua (£100 000!!). Georgiana, who becomes Charlotte’s best friend, is based on a character whom Austen wrote, who was in turn based on a real person. Georgiana is a little petulant, but I did enjoy the quite convoluted storyline involving a secret love with Otis, an African ex-slave who is now an importer in London and leading light in the Sons of Africa, an anti-slavery organisation.
Adventure to Save a Lady
I’m going to summarise Georgiana’s arc in one lot, because really it’s only there to throw our main characters together on an Adventure to Save a Lady. Georgiana’s Otis has gambling debts. His bookie uses Otis’s name to trick Georgiana into an abduction and sells her to a sleazy glob of horribleness who wants to marry money (I’d accuse the production team of fat shaming here except that Arthur, one of the Parker brothers, is also overweight and is delightful).
Sidney and Charlotte join forces to save Georgiana, who realises that Otis has feet of clay and goes into a decline (pulled from it by the lovely Arthur, who turns out to be gay so no good us hoping for a nice rich wife for the fat guy. I’m strongly hoping for a MLM romance for him in Series 2).
Through their adventure, Charlotte and Sidney reassess one another (favourably) and there are moments. But no kissing.
But wait, there’s more
While all this is going on (and more), another storyline is about the building of Sanditon and the fight to make it fashionable. This introduces us to Alternative Love Interest, James Stringer, foreman of the workforce and aspiring architect.
(Full disclosure – I would scoop Mr Stringer up and run off with him in a hot minute, leaving Dark and Brooding Hero in our dust. Kind, intelligent, creative, hard-working … he’s a honey and he deserves happiness. I have hopes this may occur in Series 2.)
Rude, rich and racist.
The other main thread of the series involves Lady Denham (Anne Reid, enjoying herself immensely). Rich, rude, and racist, Lady Denham is playing off three potential heirs: her late husband’s son and step-daughter, Edward and Esther, and Clara, a poor relation.
This storyline is the dark thread, and where Austen’s influence is cast aside completely – Edward and Esther are having a quasi-incestuous relationship, Clara is the survivor of child sexual abuse by an uncle, and unspecified abuses from a family she is determined not to go back to. While Clara and Esther at first appear to be equally nasty and venal, Esther gradually shows the potential to be redeemed … there are many double-crossings and bad dealings throughout the series.
Society gathers and a new threat emerges
Through Charlotte’s charming and totally unbelievable disclosures to a complete stranger at a masked ball (who turns out to be a Doyenne of Society), a Regatta at Sanditon is set to be a success and All Seems Well for the future.
But who else was at the masked ball? None other than Eliza, she who left Our Hero virtually at the altar to marry a rich man. Now that he is conveniently dead, she has set her sights on Sidney, and why would she not? He is gobsmacked by the possibility that he could have the woman who broke his heart.
During the Regatta, many things happen:
- Lady Denham appears to be dying; Esther confesses to her comatose body, including the fact that Clara and Edward have burned her will and had sex on her drawing room floor
- Charlotte and Sidney have a moment as he teaches her to row
- Stringer wants to make a declaration to Charlotte, but realises she is interested in Sidney (but his team wins the sculls race)
- Eliza monopolises Sidney and is very rude to Charlotte – weirdly, though, not about her messy hair
- The Doyenne is strangely interested in encouraging Charlotte not to give up hope
- Sidney approaches Charlotte, but why? ‘What is it you want from me? Please, be kind enough to leave me alone,’ she says. He does, dammit.
The twists in the tail
Lady Denham lives! And she has heard everything Esther told her, so she throws Edward and Clara out and keeps Esther. Edward pleads with Esther but the having-sex-with-Clara has opened her eyes to his horribleness, and she rejects him.
After the Regatta, Sidney realises that Eliza is nothing to him. Charlotte Is All. We are ready for The Scene. He says, ‘I believe I am my best self, my truest self, when I am with you. That is all.’ And then he walks out. Bastard.
But the next day, there is kissing on the clifftops! A Happy Ending is in sight!
At the Midsummer Ball, many lingering glances are exchanged. Sidney is about to make his declaration! But Edward crashes the party, declares his love for Esther and begs her to come back to him – SCANDAL! Babbington is faithful and Esther later accepts his proposal and we are glad for both of them.
Meanwhile, Mr Stringer’s overworked and stubborn father rejects the idea that Stringer should take up an offer of an architecture apprenticeship in London. They exchange Words. Stringer goes to the Ball. The father has a heart attack, knocks over a candle and the newly built terrace of houses, the pride of Sanditon, burns down.
Tom has failed to insure it. The family is Ruined. There is No Hope.
But Sanditon must be saved! The family must be towed from the River Tick. Sidney goes off to London to find a way.
In his absence, they bury Mr Stringer’s father in a very weird black velvet coffin. Tom and Mary’s shaky marriage is shored up.
A happy ending – but only for some
Sidney arrives back: the family is saved! Huzzah! But how? ‘I hoped on my return to be able to make you a proposal of marriage. The fact is, I have been obliged to engage myself to Mrs Eliza Campion.’
He will marry Eliza for her money. Not a single person seems to question this decision. Poor Eliza.
We end with two set pieces: Esther and Babbington are married and we know will live happily ever after (yay!). And Charlotte goes home, after visiting Stringer, who it transpires will not take the job in London, but will stay to rebuild Sanditon.
Sidney stops Charlotte’s coach on the cliffs, to say goodbye. There is much yearning. Deep and Soulful Yearning. But no kisses.
She leaves, biting back tears.
Will Series 2 deliver?
So, we are left with questions:
- Will Sidney really marry Eliza?
- Why does Charlotte only do her hair when she goes to a ball?
- Will Sanditon become a success?
- Will Lady Denham really retile her drawing room floor?
- Will the lovely kind Arthur meet a nice man in London?
- Why don’t any of these men wear gloves the way Regency men did?
- WHY IS HER HAIR SO MESSY?
- Will she see that the baby architect is the better bet?
- Will Clara survive her horrible family?
- And, of course, the big one: WILL THEY MEET AGAIN? (I’m going with yes.)
It’s not Austen. It’s not even Heyer. But it is fun, and I’m looking forward to Series 2!
Season 2 premieres on the 20th of March on ABC iView
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pamela Hart
Pamela Hart is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 35 books. She writes the Poppy McGowan mystery series and also historical novels; The Charleston Scandal is her most recent historical story, set in 1920s London.
As Pamela Freeman, she is well-known as a beloved children’s author and fantasy writer. Her most recent children’s book is a non-fiction picture book, Dry to Dry: The Seasons of Kakadu. Her adult fantasy series, The Castings Trilogy, ended with the award-winning Ember and Ash.
Love Regency romance? Don’t miss Pamela’s next book Long Meg and the Wicked Baron
From award-winning author Pamela Hart, a warm and witty Regency tale of second chance love.
Little Foxbury, Norfolk, 1818
Meg is in her mid-twenties, grief-stricken and all but on the shelf after the death of her beloved fiance, John. The last thing she expects is an immediate attraction to Nicholas, Lord Ashham, newly arrived in their Norfolk area to take up the title of his departed father – who was indeed a wicked Baron. Artistic Nicholas is cut from a different cloth – can Meg help him escape the stain of the past without damaging her own, spotless reputation, and become a bride at last?