What if instead of getting the chance to declare in ringing tones that Fitzwilliam Darcy was the last man in the world she would consent to marry, Elizabeth Bennet was so ill from fever that her distracted response was taken as a yes and she was now engaged to a man she despised?
Yep, that is the basis of this new engaging story. Talk about enemies to loves trope, right? In the Regency Era, engagements were taken seriously much in the way of a formal contract and it was your honor, your reputation and your family’s position in society along and the community along with that of the other party tat was at stake when one broke such a contract.
While dealing with a severe illness, Elizabeth first sets out angrily determined to sort it out with a sound refusal until caution forces her to let it play out. Darcy is blind to Elizabeth’s less than enthusiastic response and behavior as he experiences love and determination to have his Elizabeth even if it must mean going against the most powerful members of his family and upper class society expectations. A cooler head prevails as Elizabeth thinks through her new tough situation and starts to see things aren’t adding up about what she allowed herself to believe about the enigmatic, silent man who has declared his love for her. Is he the proud, arrogant, selfish and cold man or is he the caring, loyal, dutiful, shy, sometimes arrogant companion or maybe a bit of both? She is confronted with the evidence of her own eyes and experience that her first impressions about the man she detested might not have been accurate and others might have been right all along. The rest of the book tells how they begin again on shaky ground and build something new with the secrets from their pasts shadowing them. They observe and interact with family members, friends and even enemies living out their lives both at home and abroad.
It was a wholly encompassing story in that Darcy and Lizzy’s story isn’t told in isolation, but is nested amongst the story of several connected members of their extended friends and family group. There are multiple points of view and multiple story threads that weren’t tough to follow, but I confess that some were more of interest than others. Let’s just say that everyone gets more of a story and I mean everyone. It was like getting a set of stories all smooshed up into one that may be great or not so great depending on how you feel about the particular characters in question or how much extra detail away from the main plot interests you. I was fine with it being a nosy, curious sort, but I did feel the bulky quality of this story while in the middle. It was full of so many things since it went off in several directions. I wasn’t expecting all that, but I was heartily happy for it nonetheless. The big impression for me is that there is just more all around of all the things I enjoy- story, characters, background.
There was one feature in the storytelling style that while it gave great insight, it was also distracting. There are bits of character monologue from whichever character is telling the story. It’s in italic font so its obvious what it is, but its just the nature of it being there with the dialogue and actions that make it too much for me to concentrate on the story. It was particularly hard when in the beginning Elizabeth was having a whole conversation in her head each time she heard or did something. Darcy says something so off she goes into a long think, but oh yes, where were we? I’ll take responsibility that maybe this little niggle is just me being distractable, but with all else going on (other storylines and POVs) it was a bit much for me. It added to my understanding of what all went into their thinking behind the words and actions, but didn’t really forward the story.
The historical background is definitely well researched from the details of Regency daily life to the climate of society to the time period of a country at war. I love all that. It was there, but it didn’t dominate over the plot. The war scenes were a good balance to show the reality, but softened since it is part of a romance story. The usual settings were well represented too in balls, family parties, London and country activities, but they were all driven by the characters and not just boring descriptive actions to fill things in.
I will also say that for those familiar with the original P&P story this one does some strong deviating when it came to the direction of the characters’ lives and situations. It delved into motive more and allowed the reader to get to know so many more characters better through the additional plot threads and POVs. People can change and grow and people can be more than they seemed while others were exactly what they seemed. Without spoiling things which I would if I went into detail of explanation about that statement, I’ll just say that I love where this story went for several minor characters that were not so minor as a result. The big surprise was original character Captain George Fitzwilliam the older, middle brother to Colonel Fitzwilliam. I loved his rugged, rough and piercingly honest personality particularly when he went up against the sly wit of Mr. Bennet. Delightful scene that left Mr. Bennet speechless with his shock and awe technique. I think he’ll give even heart-stopping hero, Darcy, a run for his money with readers.
An extra feature that I found a nice bonus was the author putting out a Q&A about the book giving extra insight that I found informative and enriching to the reading experience.
All in all, I found it slow, but satisfying. Fans of Austeneque will definitely want to pick this up. Lovers of sweet historical romance with a large cast of characters, character-driven plotting and bonus romances included should give it a try too.
My thanks to the author and Meryton Press for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.