The story picks up in Kent, but Darcy has gone there earlier than his usual Easter visit. He’s there in February and is chagrined to find that a Miss Elizabeth Bennet is also in the area, having brought forward her visit to Charlotte to nurse her friend through the measles:
‘He had been dismayed to find her there; not because he did not like her but quite the reverse.’Poor Darcy is fighting against his attraction to the lovely Miss Bennet, who is an unacceptable match for him. His inclination his pushing him one way, but his sense of duty is pulling him another:
‘If he went down to the parsonage, he could claim her in half an hour. That was all it would take for him to walk down there, stride into the house and propose.
Although the idea was preposterous – preposterous! – still he could do it and then Elizabeth would be his.’Unfortunately, he succumbs to the temptation, in an ever ruder way than in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and is dismissed with some heat. Mr Darcy has a lot to think about this evening, and much new information to assimilate. As he climbs into bed on the 13th of February, he reflects:
‘I wish that St Valentine’s Day would never come. I have no use for it, he thought bitterly. Adding, unless Elizabeth Bennet were to fall in love with me.’
This was a fun concept for a story and there was a lot to like about it. Some of the motivations you see in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ that are so often changed were preserved here, such as Darcy having the intention of marrying Georgiana to Bingley, which obviously played a part in him taking such an active interest in his friend’s love life. I felt that the author had a good understanding of Darcy, warts and all, and of where he was coming from at this stage in the story. It was also refreshing to see a Lady Catherine that I recognised rather than a caricature. Some things were changed from P&P such as Anne de Bourgh being able to play the pianoforte, and there were some things which almost seemed like continuity errors, because they didn’t quite make sense to me in the variation, such as Darcy referring Elizabeth to Colonel Fitzwilliam for details when in this change he had travelled to Rosings alone and hence Elizabeth had never met him and may not even have heard of him.
On the downside, although I enjoyed the story, I wasn’t bowled away by the author’s style. Austen’s prose is very enjoyable to read and obviously you’re not expecting equal to that in a variation but I found it a little flat. I also wasn’t convinced by the speed with which Darcy shelved his resentment and Elizabeth’s feelings became warmer. When you consider that in canon it took her some weeks to get from her Hunsford feelings to the stage where she had no ill-will towards him but never wanted to see him again anything much shorter seems pretty sudden, but I guess with a ‘Groundhog Day’ concept you have to let such objections slide! It was a fun read for Valentine’s day and some of the twists and turns that Darcy had to go through I didn’t see coming. I’d rate this as 3½ stars.