If you love John Thornton, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Downton Abbey -- there's a new novel that includes something of all three! (And I'm happy to say that it's getting fabulous reviews at Amazon!)
Ginger Monette, a fellow Thornton lover, has written a Darcy and Elizabeth tale set during the tumultuous Great War in England. John Thornton makes an appearance in the story, and -- better yet -- will be the hero of a future book in the series, Thornton's Hope.
If you're not intrigued yet, then you should be impressed with Ginger's dedication and passion for historical accuracy. She studied World War I six days a week for nine months before writing her novels!
I hope you'll enjoy my interview with Ginger, as I ask her about her connection with Gaskell's John Thornton:
Tell us how and when you fell in love with John Thornton. Is your Thornton love more recent compared to your devotion to Darcy/Austen?
A friend introduced me to Pride & Prejudice with Matthew Macfadyen, and that sparked my love of period drama. Shortly thereafter, I learned of the existence of the North & South mini-series. But I saved it as a treat to myself when our family was on vacation at the beach and I could watch the whole thing in one stretch. And boy, I was not disappointed! I was mesmerized from the beginning. John Thornton was the most swoon-worthy character I'd ever encountered.
My heart went out to the brooding man who had worked so hard to elevate himself from his humble beginnings. He was a man of principle and character who believed that he could achieve anything with hard work—except win the hand of Margaret Hale. Ah! The poor man!
Have you read Gaskell's "North and South" and, if so, what did you love about it? (Or, what did you love about the mini-series?)
After I had watched the mini-series numerous times, I delved into the novel. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the movie adaptation.
In my opinion, North & South is up there as one of the best of the best period dramas. First, the casting and acting was spot-on. Richard Armitage's portrayal of John Thornton was outstanding. No only is Armitage handsome, but his every gesture and facial expression gave further depth to his character. And Daniela Denby-Ashe was the perfect counterpart to him. In an interview, she said she had been cast first, and that when Richard read for the part of Thornton, there was that magical spark between them and she just knew he was the one for the role.
In addition to the cast and acting, the screenplay was an excellent adaption. I really prefer its ending to Gaskell's. I also thought the beautiful soundtrack did a wonderful job at helping tell the story and convey the emotion portrayed in each scene.
Finally, the train station scene.... Of all the scenes in period drama, I think that last scene of North & South is the most romantic and satisfying of all. Although Margaret is speaking one thing with her words, her body language is conveying something completely different and Thornton is reading her loud and clear. With the camera shooting the scene up close, we see every nuance of expression in Thornton's countenance—which tells a story all its own. And that kiss—. Oh, that kiss....
What are the qualities you love about Thornton that has made you select him for a character in your work -- what makes him compelling or admirable?
I love that Thornton is a man who feels deeply. And although his exterior can be hard as nails, he's really quite tender hearted—a paradox of sorts. You have to get up close to see who he really is.
In many ways, I see him as a representation of a fundamental paradox of the war. Soldiers were forced to put on a steely exterior, be brave and charge the enemy. But inwardly they were fragile humans, most of whom only wanted to make it home to their families and resume their lives.
Thornton is also loyal and hard-working, excellent character traits for a soldier. But probably the biggest reason I chose him is that we love him!
Can you give us any hints about how John Thornton makes his appearance in the 20th century in your novel?
Thornton plays a small, but important role in Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes. He serves as a kind of a mirror for Darcy.
When Darcy looks at Thornton, in many ways he sees himself. Both men not only embody the previously mentioned character traits, but both share personality traits as well. Both are brooding introverts, intelligent, and heartbroken over a woman. The one thing that separates them is station. Something Darcy was born with, but something Thornton can never attain, no matter how hard he works or how virtuous his character.
Putting Thornton beside Darcy serves to illustrate just how similar, yet how far apart they really are. It forces Darcy to reexamine who he really is, his standing in society, and his significance.
In addition, their relationship serves to illustrate an important shift in British culture that began in the trenches of WW1. For the first time in history, men of rank and station were forced to work (fight) side by side with those beneath them. Working towards a common goal in life-and-death situations gave each group an appreciation for the other, and they learned that they weren't as different as previously perceived. This realization marked the beginning of the end of the class system in Britain.
I understand "Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes" has a sequel coming in January. Does Thornton have a role in it as well?
Indeed he does! In Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, once again, Thornton's role is not a large one, but an important one. This time, Thornton is a hero.
Margaret Hale also makes an appearance and readers will see a glimpse of them as a couple.
A glimpse is all we get?
Well, yes. —for now. But stay tuned. I have plans to give John and Margaret their own Great War Romance. In Thornton's Hope, readers will be whisked away to the battlefields of France where our dear couple will fight for their love amidst the ravages of war.
Readers who would like to be notified about Thornton's Hope and other Great War Romances can sign up for my newsletter at GingerMonette.com.
Any parting thoughts you'd like to add?
Yes. I never dreamed that my research of WW1 would have such a profound impact on me. The WW2 generation is often referred to as “The Greatest Generation,” but I'm not so sure I agree.
Many of the young men who fought in the trenches of France and Belgium had never travelled more than a hundred miles from home. Automobiles were a novelty, and telephones were a relatively new invention.
The boys were shipped across the Channel and were greeted with a baptism of fire—machine-guns and artillery that could inflict horrifying wounds with dizzying speed. Trenches were swarming with rats and lice, mud was often up to their knees, and the pounding of artillery shelling was relentless and at times deafening. And then there were the ever-present sights, sounds, and smells of death. Everyone lost friends and comrades.
And yet... the men remained cheerful, shared what little they had, and everyone did something for the war effort. All those little acts of kindness added up and made a big difference. It challenges me to do likewise.
In 2017, America will commemorate its hundredth anniversary of participation in WW1. I would just challenge readers to pay attention. Appreciate the sacrifices our great-grandfathers made—men like John Thornton and Fitzwilliam Darcy who were willing to give of themselves and sacrifice for others so that we could be free.
-- Thank you, Trudy, for hosting Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes on More than Thornton!
The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she's hooked—on writing and World War I.
When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.
Her WW1 flash fiction piece, "Flanders Field of Grey," won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's 2015 Picture This grand prize.
Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.
Don't forget to check out the wonderful reviews of Darcy's Hope at Amazon.