This is a Pride and Prejudice ‘what if’ variation; what if Mr Darcy mentioned Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his letters to his sister from Netherfield and Georgiana came to Netherfield to provide him with support. Thus, Elizabeth sees from very early on that Darcy is a different man to the proud, unfeeling person she believes him to be when she witnesses his interactions with Georgiana. Also, with Georgiana’s encouragement Darcy doesn’t fight particularly hard to fight his attraction to Elizabeth. She is still determined to dislike him, but she feels unwillingly attracted to him.
When Wickham comes to Meryton it doesn’t take him long to determine Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth and he comes up with a plan that backfires spectacularly for him, leading to Darcy being requested by Mr Bennet to propose to Elizabeth. Darcy believes that Elizabeth is extremely unhappy to be marrying him due to her dislike of him, when in fact, she is unhappy to be marrying a man who she believes doesn’t care for her at all. Prior to the marriage he makes her a promise that he won’t touch her unless she wishes it, which of course puts her in a situation where she would have to be pretty bold and forthright with him.. but why would she do that when she feels her husband doesn’t care for her? And with this kind of distraction, could Wickham be causing more trouble?
I had just come into this on the back of a few books that didn’t entice me to read on and I am happy to say that my luck changed with this book, it’s very readable, even if you want to shake the protagonists sometimes! This is a fun, mostly light hearted story. There is no Mr Collins, and I found I could cope with his absence quite happily! There is quite a bit of symbolism, with Lizzy caring for some chickens at Pemberley who are hatching at the wrong time of year. This author’s sister is also an author of Austenesque stories, Karalynne Mackrory, and there is a very sweet nod to her in the mention of a Miss Mackrory, whose name is similar to Caroline.
Although I really enjoyed this book there were a few things for me that didn’t ring true. Some of the timeline was odd – such as I think the Netherfield Ball happened in October, rather than November, then the marriage happened two weeks after that, and around five or so weeks later Lizzy is barefoot in the stream and later than this walking round without a coat on, and I couldn’t help but feel that it would be too cold in North England for any of that. Also, the language had a distinctly American tone to it on many occasions, such as Jane referring to her mother as ‘Momma’ and Mr Darcy wearing vest and pants rather than a waistcoat and breeches.
Some of the behaviour of Elizabeth and Darcy felt uncharacteristic to me – Elizabeth scarcely meets her maid Serafina before she is letting her into confidences, whereas in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth is a character who I think is pretty secretive, she is the sort to keep her own counsel, and I couldn’t see her being so open with anybody, let alone a servant, when she is trying to act in the manner of the mistress of Pemberley. It also didn’t ring true to me how long it took Darcy to work out her symbolism. She gives him some pretty clear clues, and he is described as ‘clever’ in Pride and Prejudice. I can understand him misinterpreting her feelings, but I think he would have worked it out fairly quickly. Also, the day before Darcy sets out to do something extremely important, he gets drunk because he is embarrassed about something, which struck me as extremely unlikely, albeit amusing, because he is so motivated by duty. For these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this for somebody who wants to read a book in Austen’s style, but if I thought it was an entertaining, romantic variation. It’s also worth noting that there are no sex scenes in this book, if you prefer to avoid these.
Ms Ellsworth has written another book, ‘Pride and Persistence’ which has a pretty unique premise of Mr Darcy suffering a head injury which leads to memory loss at Hunsford and multiple marriage proposals, and I definitely plan to read this one at some point.