‘She reminded Lizzy of Mrs Bennet especially when she laughed like a young girl, her curls trembling as she disappeared through a door at the end. Lizzy suppressed a desire to giggle, and wondered how the lady managed to keep up her way of talking, as if she’d just stepped out of a Jane Austen novel.’This lady convinces Lizzy to take an advent calendar, which she can pay for at the end of her tour, and she sends Lizzy off to change into period costume and meet with her daughters (more employees in character, Lizzy presumes). Trapped in Chawton by the snow, somehow, Lizzy finds herself as part of this world. The characters she is trapped with seem very real. She gets to know the Bennet family, and Mr Williams and even takes a trip to Derbyshire. The advent calendar appears to be very unusual, with the doors glowing before they are opened, and each picture has a resonance to what is happening that day.
Lizzy assumes that she is in Pride and Prejudice but some things are quite different. Elizabeth Bennet is very taken with a rich, charming gentleman from Derbyshire, a Mr Wickham(!), and when Lizzy mentions Mr Darcy nobody has ever heard of him!
“Is Mr Darcy here?” Lizzy asked tentatively
Elizabeth shook her head. “I do not recall that name. Darcy, did you say? Is he a friend of yours?”
When Lizzy finally gets to meet Miss Austen she discovers that she has found herself in a draft of ‘First Impressions’ (this is the original title of ‘Pride & Prejudice’, a book that was worked and re-worked to give us the story that so many of us love). However, Miss Austen feels that something isn’t quite right with the story, and she requests that Lizzy help inspire her to improve the story. Lizzy can’t just tell Jane how to fix the storyline, all she can do is hint, as Jane needs to think up the details herself, and she tweaks at the characters, so they don’t always behave the same way from one day to the next. Mr Williams is included in this, so Lizzy isn’t even sure if he is real.
This was a very readable story, and I enjoyed seeing Austen’s characters interacting with their visitor Lizzy in this ‘book world’. I particularly enjoyed seeing Mr Darcy, when the character was introduced, as rather than the proud and somewhat haughty man we would be expecting, instead he is instantly besotted with Elizabeth, and so rather than be offended by him expressing an adverse opinion on her, she instead is put off by how much he likes her! However, Austen’s characters are very much secondary in this story, the main protagonist is Lizzy Benson, who is very likeable, although sometimes I was a bit surprised at her reactions to events. She accepts the time travel/book world issue almost without a blink and doesn’t seem at all worried that the fate of one of the most famous books in the English language may lie in her hands, though I accept that ‘First Impressions’ was an earlier version of it, so she may have felt that it was safe as long as the main issue of the hero of the story was resolved. She also integrates seamlessly into the earlier time when I thought there may have been some stumbling blocks, though since this is a book world rather than the real world there is some crossover of knowledge to the earlier time, such as knowledge of telephones etc, though none of them work of course.
The only thing I would have changed in this story is the main romance storyline. I didn’t feel the relationship was developed enough for me to buy into it and I didn’t find the ending really believable in modern times, though it was an enjoyable ending and full of Christmas feelgood. However, I very much enjoyed the part set in the world of ‘First Impressions’ and the way that Jane Austen was tweaking and developing the characters. This is an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it. It would be suitable for most people as there are no sex scenes or bad language in this book but you’d need to be willing to buy in to the fact that the action takes place in an alternate reality! This was no issue for me, so I’d rate it as a 4 star read.
*I was provided with an e-book of this by the author for my honest review