Both under pressure to accept marriages they do not want discover in one heart-felt revealing conversation that they might have the ideal solution- marry each other. Lizzy discovers the man she thought was arrogant, dishonorable, and cold is anything but and Darcy finds that his indifference is merely an attempt to protect himself from the attraction he feels. Through twists and turns caused by misunderstanding, scheming, and outside events a plan for a marriage of convenience becomes something so much more.
This was a debut effort and my stars was I surprised to learn this as the book had a depth and command to the writing that veteran authors would envy. Characters, dialogue, setting, and background all meshed into a rich tapestry of words that made me feel like I was reading a classic story rather than a contemporary author writing a Historical Romance variation of a classic.
Oh, and the story assumes the reader is at least moderately familiar with the original Pride & Prejudice story because it enters in with little introduction and felt like there was an expectation that the reader knows who and what came before with just a few hints to get up to speed. That said, this is a divergent story and goes in a new directions from the beginning including original characters.
The story opens with Elizabeth Bennet receiving a proposal of marriage from her repugnant cousin, Collins. Her family estate is entailed away from the female line and this is the man who will inherit since her father produced five daughters. And unfortunately, the estate is small and there is no dowry money to speak of. Her mother is insistent that she should marry to protect the family against the eventuality of her father’s death. Elizabeth is unmoved and refuses the slimy toad of a man only to find out that her father is backing her mother on this. The betrayal of her favorite parent who knows she will be miserable in such a marriage sends her running to the top of Oakham Mount.
Fitzwilliam Darcy has received yet another letter from his aunt insisting that he do his duty and wed his cousin to unite their two estates and keep the money in the family. He likes his cousin Anne, but has no desire to marry her. Dealing with his stubborn and determined aunt is trying and then there is his concern about his friend Charles Bingley getting entangled with a woman who may be a fortune hunter. His ride has taken him within sight of a woman in distress. It is only when he gets close that he realizes it is the fiery Miss Bennet who is sobbing. Darcy knows she despises him, but he can’t leave her in such a state.
Something surreal happens while the pair are on the hill. They both reach past propriety and reserve to be honest and open and in so doing a tentative liking and friendship begins. They form a mutually helpful plan and both are sanguine about it. Elizabeth always hoped to marry only for love and Darcy only planned to marry for mutual affection and like-mindedness. Through unforeseen twists however, plans and feelings alter and they part with no hope of reconciliation. Only fate has a way of bringing the most unlikely thing about.
As I said, this felt authentic in its tone and writing like a classical style story. The language, manners, activities, and backdrop help form a well-written Regency era love story. The pacing was good. It was gentle and very much character-driven, but never sluggish. The cast of characters was large, but each individual was developed and had their part in the story and some even had minor plot threads going on.
The main characters, Darcy and Lizzy, tend to be tempestuous and assumptive so that they get into trouble a few times with the misunderstanding. It is comical in a way even though it wasn’t written as comedy. One misunderstanding early on gave me the giggles. Darcy meant one thing and Lizzy took it oh so very wrong and ripped him a new one and then had the mortification of discovering she got the wrong end of the stick. Most of their troubles are a bit of their own making, but there is some external conflict going on too with some of Darcy’s family scheming and an enemy from the past plotting against them. It was a little heartbreaking to see both of them take actions out of care and duty- to be honorable- and it ends up causing each other and themselves pain. The author established early on just how right they are for each other and how they do each other good and carry an early giving sort of love, but neither recognizes the love for what it is and have their own epiphanies long after the first parting. I was very caught up in this pair and groaned each time something came along to keep them parted or prevented them from a long overdue conversation to straighten things out.
The surrounding characters were a colorful variety of family, friend, and foe. I enjoyed the teasing exchanges between Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam who had Darcy and Lizzy’s numbers and played a bit of matchmaking.
Things got tense near the end as events came to a head and the epilogue was the perfect cap to give a bit extra page time after the dirt had settled leaving me with a delighted smile on my face.
All in all, I found this a fantastic read and can’t wait for more from this author. I can easily recommend this to Sweet Historical Romance and Austen lovers.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #234 HR
New to Me #96 author/series