The Montagues and Capulets have nothing on this pair of feuding families. And then two of the children had to fall in love…
I was curious. Curiosity sparks enthusiasm for many of my reading experiences particularly when an author takes an old classic and lets their creativity fly. What if… what if Darcy and Elizabeth’s families were already introduced in the older generation? What if Darcy’s father was still alive, the villain of the piece, and Darcy wasn’t an independent man of means in his own right? Ah see… does your curiosity rise, too?
It all began with a masquerade. Elizabeth and her friend slip into the party at the neighboring estate and Elizabeth encounters a handsome man who is all she could dream of and that same man, Fitzwilliam Darcy, was equally as captivated. It is a magical evening for them both. Lizzy even helps Darcy’s little sister out of situation, but then she hears the family name of the siblings and knows that all connection must end. The children of her father’s hate rival. And Darcy never learns the name of the lovely lady he was falling for before she slips away into the night.
Two years later, Darcy enters Elizabeth’s neighborhood. He encounters Elizabeth at a local assembly and is forced to act the most important role of his life to fool his father’s watchers who always keep tabs on him. He must pretend to insult and look down on the woman of his dreams. And Elizabeth, with her family watching must do the same. Though under it all, their yearning toward each other is stronger than ever. Both are affected by the caprice of fate. Is there no hope of a chance?
The author struck the right tone when blending Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet with Austen’s Pride & Prejudice for a mash up. The scale was most definitely tipped more toward Austen’s work, but there was a quality of a Shakespearean play to it as well. The story flows like a play in fact. The addition of Darcy’s villainous father was probably the most obvious example for the Shakespeare influence. What this character set in motion affected the lives of every other character in the story and he felt like he belonged to the playwright’s creation more than Austen.
While I marveled at Fitzwilliam Darcy having such a parent, I also found the dynamics of how constricting it was to be the son and heir of such a man changed Darcy’s background significantly. Darcy might have lived in luxurious surroundings, be of an independent age, be the most eligible bachelor of Society, but at the end of the day, he is utterly dependent on his father for an allowance and a home. Darcy’s principled character and loving protective nature are impressive in the light of the morally bankrupt man who should be the main influence in his life. I found ‘sketching the characters’ of the cast of this book as fascinating as the actual story line.
Though there is a definite air of despondency around Darcy and Elizabeth because they think their growing love has no chance with their father’s hating each other so much, I was grateful that the author kept that on just the right side of too much angst. It was fun watching the pair act out their roles so that the big scenes from the original story took on a new significance because it is play acting. When Darcy says, ‘she is not handsome enough to tempt me’ at the assembly, Elizabeth is aware he is play acting for her family and his father’s spies, the Hursts (yep, for those familiar, that will cause a laugh or two). Though, they both act so well that at times there is a seed of doubt that the insults and actions are real only later to get private moments to reassure each other.
And that brings me to say that it was exciting to see how familiar characters would play out their roles with their personalities intact. Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam have more scene time since they are introduced early on in the story. Bingley wanted smacking for nearly losing his chance with Jane because he needed to grow a spine. I thought it was great fun to watch Darcy’s father and Lady Catherine clash in the Rosings Park scene. It’s rare that I will cheer on Lady C, but she was magnificent. But the one that made me giggle snort was Darcy Senior delivering a set down to the odious Caroline Bingley. He’s the bad guy, but even bad guys have their moments.
The last series of scenes were a build up of tension and pace as Darcy and Elizabeth worked to thwart his father’s plotting. Like watching the end of a Checkers match. I was flipping pages pretty fast to see if they would pull it off.
This is one that it is best read by those who have read Austen’s P&P or at least watched a movie adaption. Several times in the story, I relied more on my previous knowledge to fill things in. For example, Mr. Collins is suddenly on the scene without being introduced performing his usual role. So, it’s not that others can’t enjoy this story or engage with it, I just feel it would be even better to have the older story in mind to appreciate it better.
In summary, this was a delight and a story that I would recommend particularly for JAFF and Austenesque lovers who enjoy a dash of Shakespeare to make it interesting. This is a new situation for Darcy and somewhat for Elizabeth and well worth the curious interest I felt in the beginning.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #191 HR