The Great War years was such a momentous time in history. That alone would be the captivating backdrop or conflict in a story, but to have it paired with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice left me salivating to read just such a story. Pride, prejudice, and a desperate war full of battles, espionage, and those desperate souls caught up in it all made for riveting reading from cover to cover.
Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes is not just a variation set in a different time period. There are familiar moments that the Austen lover will recognize and adore, but it is not a close translation of characters and plot. Beauty from Ashes is very much its own story and the reader needs to go in with this in mind.
The story begins at the Netherfield dance. Elizabeth is disgruntled that she must dance with the man who requisitioned her beloved home for army use, the guy who slighted her looks, and also the one who ruined Lt. Wickham’s life. Captain Darcy may be handsome, but Elizabeth can’t stand him. Her attitude and accusations rile him. Later her utter and vociferous rejection compounded with the horrific battle that lost him all his men determines him to seal himself off from care and love.
Later, Elizabeth suffers her own losses- a father’s death, a sister’s disappearance, a mother gone deranged and burning down their home, and her own dreams of becoming a doctor destroyed. The only bright side is that inspite of interference, her sister Jane is back with Charles. After accepting a surprising and unanticipated offer, Elizabeth goes to the front as a private nurse to the Frenchman who opens his home to become a field hospital. Darcy and Elizabeth meet again.
Alright, this was a well-crafted story from the complexities of the story itself to the attention to authentic historical detail. The characters are colorful and full of life. The gritty quality needed in a war setting is there without getting too graphic. I enjoyed the warfront suspense element paired along with the ongoing conflict between this pair who fight the sizzling attraction between them.
My only niggle and its a small one is that I did feel that I entered mid-story to a certain extent. I’m not sure if this is largely because of expectation that it would follow the pattern of the original Pride & Prejudice story or if I would have felt that way in any case. The story begins sometime after all the principle players are introduced to each other, the war is raging, and the early sparks of conflict have come and blazed up all off stage. I imagine it was a way to summarize and keep the flow of the story moving forward as well as preserved some mystery to the suspense element, but I missed not getting things first hand. Obviously there was enough that I got the idea and could imagine the scene just like later, there are explanations or memories of those scenes, but my curiosity would wish to experience them up close and personal.
The character of Colonel Fitzwilliam was a fantastic extra layer of goodness to the story for me as he is a favorite after the main characters. I loved how the author portrayed the Colonel as true to the times and situation even having to make the tough decisions. The tense relationship with Darcy, his cousin, but also junior officer and trusted friend was amazingly intuitive. Oh, and the inclusion of a cameo by John Thornton of North and South fame along with a descendant of two other delightful Austen figures was a treat.
Darcy and Elizabeth share the narration and I enjoyed getting their separate observations on their work and on each other. Darcy was bitter and Elizabeth was deeply angry, but both had their epiphany moments that eventually took them down the long road of understanding. This is a slow build sweet romance set against the desperation of war so the romance is subtle rather than brazen. I loved the promise of what was to come with the ending and the still looming ominous clouds of war and betrayal.
On a side note, I was delighted to flip through a supplemental virtual scrapbook. The author compiled photos and memorabilia of the times and particularly that which pertained to this story. Lizzy’s Scrapbook can be accessed by readers who sign up for the author’s newsletter here: http://www.gingermonette.com/copy-of-lizzy-s-scrapbook
So all in all, this story hit home with its focus on a field hospital in France during WWI, a tempestuous love story and a cunning suspense plot. This will definitely hold vast appeal for Austen lovers, but I think those who enjoy sweet historical romance and fiction should definitely give this one due consideration as well.
My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #14 HR
Literary Pickers #15 passport
Austenesque Lovers #3