I have enjoyed this author’s writing from her first book right along to this latest effort. While I did enjoy her Less Pride &Prejudice series based on Jane Austen’s original story for the direction she explored in that series of stories, I found this book to be so much more in background, plotting, characters, and tone. She went dark and deep and came up with something much richer for it. It was an amazing ‘what if’ variation sequel. It explored ‘what if’ in the original Pride and Prejudice tale Darcy had not succeeded in discovering his beloved Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia and restored the family’s good name and what if a chain of events followed that would leave all the characters in all, but unrecognizable places. Worst-case scenario stuff, a reunion romance and a truly shiver-worthy topic of madness and its treatment in a past era made for quite the engaging read. I read it in two sitting because I just could not put it down- not because it was particularly exciting, but just because it went some place so different.
It’s the 1830s and Fitzwilliam Darcy hasn’t been right for years. His family knows it, his servants know it, all of society knows it. Everyone knows of the horrid death of his beloved sister, but his issues began long before that. What was the cause? But now he has truly gone off the deep end. Darcy discovers an old enemy near a cottage fire on his estate. He assumes the worst and snaps when he throws the man into the flames. The witnesses are horrified, but no more than Darcy himself. As a result, he listens when his cousins beg him to seek treatment with a reputable doctor at his private home for the mentally afflicted. This leads him to encounter someone he never thought to see again.
Elizabeth Bennet has led a life of misery and misfortune from the moment she rejected the proposal of a truly good man whom she had wronged out of her own pride and blindness to his superior qualities. It is only in later years that she has found a good situation with Dr. Wilson as the matron of his home where he private treats the mental ailments of those from upstanding families. Into her calm, ordered world comes the one man she has never forgotten. She can’t imagine what would bring the proud, strong Mr. Darcy to his knees like this, but she sees this as her chance if she his brave enough to take it and with one everyone thinks of as mad.
The story takes place when Darcy and Elizabeth are middle age and care-worn from the lives they have lived. There is a certain amount of sadness about the whole story. Nobody is untouched by it and I just wanted to bundle all the characters up in a hug- even Wickham. *slow blink* Yep, you saw that right. I wanted to hug the villain. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out why.
One unexpected and fun aspect of this story was to find a few more familiar faces than just the Pride & Prejudice crew of characters. I loved seeing characters from Emma, Mansfield Park and Persuasion there as minor characters with interesting sequel stories of their own going on in the background.
The romance is a gentle one and it is one that comes on quickly in this story, but that’s because it is a continuation from what went on twenty years before. It’s like they picked up right from the last time they encountered each other. It’s a sweet romance that is a bit blander than I would have liked, but still nice. I loved how things were wrapped up for all concerned.
All in all, I found this book had depth and emotion that challenged me from the start. I would definitely recommend it for Historical Romance fans that appreciate a gentle romance against the historical backdrop of madness and mad houses. It would work best for those familiar with the P&P storyline, but I think most people would get by fine. I would most definitely recommend this one to those who love Austenesque Historical Romance.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read her book in exchange for an honest review.
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