Dearest Friends was a very special book for me to read. I adore Austenesque variations and encountering new to me authors. I was enchanted by that book, but felt there was more to the ongoing story of the extended family group of characters.
I imagine it wasn’t easy for the author to pick up her pen once again and satisfy her readers not only with an ongoing story, but a story that stayed consistent yet was fresh with the earlier book. The author accomplished this all so very well. I read Family Portraits in two sittings and was once again transported into a heartwarming family saga that spanned many years taking in heartaches, laughter, and a shot at romance for the younger adults in the family.
Blending epistolary and narrative formats, the large cast of family pose many delightful plot threads that run separate, weave together, and pull apart several times. The reader has to stay on her/his toes to keep up as scenes change and many characters are involved in this story as the family has grown larger with each marriage. The pacing varied, but matched the situation as characters’ went through conflicts or times of growth.
I was delighted that Sebastian Fitzwilliam and Mary Bennet Elliot continue their star-crossed love/friendship and felt like they were the focal point and needed the most resolution in this second half of the story. I found their Cathy and Heathcliff type of story particularly poignant and touching. The author’s treatment of grief and loss was sensitive and careful. I teared up from the emotional impact, but felt the development here was the strongest of the book.
Richard and Anne have the fun relationship. I felt that this Col Fitz and his Anne make each scene they are in sparkle. It was delightful to see a surprising good relationship develop between Richard and Lydia (in a father/daughter sort of way).
Jane and Bingley are still the unfortunate ones because of the deep flaws in their characters which was sad yet I enjoyed the unique way they are portrayed in this duo of books.
Lizzy and Darcy have their bumps in the road of Happily Ever After. Lizzy earnestly seeks a parent’s approval and bends over backward to believe the best in people. She stretches herself to thin as a result and puts a strain on her own marriage.
And the younger girls- Georgie, Kitty, and Lydia all have their first shot at courtship and marriage taking it in their own way. I enjoyed the further time with these young ladies to see them deal with their pasts and move on into the future. I actually adored Lydia in this one. She was spirited and impulsive, but not spoilt.
From the sidelines, but refusing to stay there, Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Susan all manage to provide the groans and moans they are famous for. They were capable of stirring up the mayhem, for sure.
This was a book that doesn’t take the practiced approach to the way a novel usually reads, but was a decade long update into the P&P family’s lives. I loved going along through all those years with them. This is a book that must be read after Dearest Friends as it is a closely-tied sequel. Both are ones I would recommend to the Austenesque fan who enjoys a strong deviation from the original path and a creative twist to the individual characters. I look forward to more of what this author has to offer in the future.
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