I was very excited to get the opportunity to read this one in its entirety after reading it as a serial. It’s rather a fun and unique undertaking in that the author’s wrote it as part of a Reader’s Choice weekly installment. Each segment would finish with a vote for readers to choose one of a few options and that would be the direction of the following week’s story installment. Now doesn’t that rouse your curiosity? It roused mine.
The story opens with Fitzwilliam Darcy regretting his impulse to drag his younger brother along to his annual spring visit to their aunt and cousin and work on estate matters. William finds Theo’s playful, boisterous and sociable nature trying and he seethes over the trouble it has caused their family in the past. Theo was involved a family tragedy taking their youngest brother and most recently Theo was there when a former friend nearly seduced and eloped with their sister. William felt it like a betrayal because he had already tried to tell Theo that George Wickham couldn’t be trusted. Now, he has his brother along hoping to repair some of the distance between them while they visit their family. Unfortunately, Theo seems bent on antagonizing him more than ever and William already has his recent meeting with a young woman he is attracted to, but needs to forget to leave him agitated without Theo prodding him.
Theo once looked up to his older brother and thought of them as friends even though William was always more serious and keen about things like duty, but ever since the death of Sebastian, William has pushed him away and treated him like an irresponsible child. Theo is an accomplished barrister, has a way with people and is well respected, but William sees none of this. It’s a hardship to even be in his brother’s stuffy presence, but particularly now. Prince William has something more than his ire with Theo making him broodier and pricklier than usual. Upon reaching their aunt’s estate and visiting with the pretty, vivacious guest of his aunt’s parson, Theo has an inkling what or rather who has his brother agitated. Can his stodgy older brother be pining after a woman beneath him in station who seemingly wants nothing to do with the wealthy, handsome Master of Pemberley? Theo still loves his brother in spite of their differences and finally sees a way to prove himself his brother’s friend and make up for the things William blames him for. Theo puts his investigative powers to work and sets out to do some matchmaking with the aid of two of his cousins and his sister. Only as usual, things get mixed up and his brother is angrier than ever when he thinks Theo is setting himself up as rival for the lovely Elizabeth Bennet’s affections or later, when he thinks Theo has ruined his chances with the lady. And in the shadows lurks Wickham who would love to get a spot of revenge and comeuppance against the Darcy brothers who he blames for thwarting his attempt to snag their sister’s dowry.
This was a fun romp that was laced with humor, heartwarming moments, romance and a little dash of danger to make things interesting. This one has the flavor of Jane Austen’s most popular novel though it goes off in new intriguing directions much of the time. The book read very quickly for all its pages and the pacing was nice. Action and dialogue were tight with the plot development not going deep, but lightly engaging.
Normally, I am all over the swoony romance of a story. However, in this case, while I liked the difficult romance between William and Elizabeth, it was the need for reconciliation and growth between the brothers that had the biggest attraction. In fact, I felt the romance took a backseat. The brothers are opposites and they really don’t understand each other. They don’t communicate well which leads to a lot of miscues and misunderstandings. They both want the same thing, but don’t seem to know how to go about it and then they seem to do better with a few relapses when William got stormy and Theo got pouty.
There are a few story threads swirling around this family. As I said, the brothers’ reconciliation was my favorite part, but the romance was there too. The romance, just like the relationship between brothers, was dependent on William’s growth and attempt to open up and let others see what he is thinking and feeling. Seeing William amongst his friends and family leads Elizabeth to ponder the fact that she might have got this man wrong for the most part after the disastrous first impression he left with her although he still is maddeningly arrogant and set in his ways.
The romance wasn’t told in isolation in that all William’s relations seemed to have their hand in matchmaking. Some of it was pretty funny and got madcap at times especially when eccentric Cousin Anne took a hand. This leads me to point out that the secondary characters were colorful and engaging. I had a good time with Theo’s friend, Sir Monty and the Fitzwilliam cousins, Anne and the Colonel.
The danger element with Wickham plotting against the family actually worked to unite the brothers even as before it had driven a wedge between them. Theo learns to respect William’s judgment and protective instincts and William learns to trust in Theo’s abilities to handle a crisis. I loved seeing them both in action and finally working together.
In summation, this was a lovely story of family reconciliation and sweet romance told with a lot of warmth and humor. I would recommend it for those who enjoy Austenesque stories and sweet Historical Romance.
My thanks to the authors for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #100 HR
Historical Romance #26
Historical Fiction #12
Austenesque Lovers #15
Literary Pickers #101 Whip
New to Me #53 Authors
Cliché Klatch #35 ‘Not so deep as a well’