At this time of the year, I love picking up books that are centered around the holidays with a warm, cozy, family-feel to them. Combine that with one of my favorite classical stories and I just can’t resist. Holiday at Pemberley is a gentle, sweet telling of two people who fall in love in spite of their belief that love will never come to them and it is the telling of what comes next for the rest of the characters from the previous books.
This is the third and final book in the Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice series that began as an alternative telling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It asks the question ‘what if Darcy wasn’t so proud and what if Lizzy wasn’t so prejudice?’ Then the second book brought out several of the minor characters from the original story in a sequel to the first book giving them their own happily ever afters. This final book begins where the first one leaves off, parallels the events in the second book chronologically though it tells a separate story line and finally ties both the previous stories up nicely while including the happily ever after for yet another minor character in the first story. Did I confuse you yet? Well, what I meant to say essentially is to read the other two first and know that this is the final book which wraps it all up neatly in a bow.
I find this one hard to summarize because so much is going on in this story since it is winding things up and has a few different story paths. The time frame begins with the final preparations for the first holidays that a soon to be married Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth along with her family and friends spend at Darcy’s estate of Pemberley. His family and hers come together for sometimes interesting and humorous results.
Against this dually joyous occasion of the holidays and a wedding, Charlotte Lucas, Lizzy’s friend, is there in the role of bridesmaid and she meets the vicar of Kympton who is a welcome and frequent visitor to Pemberley. They connect over shared interests, but Mr. Westover considers himself a confirmed bachelor and Charlotte fears she will end up a spinster because she has little too offer someone to tempt them into marriage. Everyone is heartened when a friendship develops and Charlotte and David are a daily thing. She starts to hope a little that maybe what Lizzy has with Mr. Darcy and the affectionate matches she has seen amongst Lizzy’s sisters might be something she will enjoy too. That is until one mistaken comment dashes her hopes to the side.
Unfortunately for Charlotte and those who would see her happy with David Westover, he doesn’t pop the question and she returns to her dreary home to be the butt of her younger siblings jokes, the frustration of her brother who doesn’t want an old-maid sister on his hands just when he plans to marry and the disappointment of parents who want her to be married almost as much as she does.
After the grave misunderstanding with Charlotte about the direction of their friendship and having to walk away from what they had, David Westover goes back to his normal routines only to find the life has gone out of his once eager and exciting pursuits. It takes him some time to realize the truth and even longer to determine what he really wants, but by now much time has passed and he might have waited too long.
But the holiday season is once again upon them and the old Christmas magic has a way of working on even the most hopeless situations- well that and the fact that several willing people who want to see these two happy get involved to bring them together.
This book was very much a wrap-up installment. There is so much going on. Alongside the storyline with Charlotte and David, equal amounts of the story are devoted to the continuing romance of Darcy and Lizzy as they adjust to married life and there are bits and pieces from the others too. There is a final reckoning for the plotting Wickhams that left me a little piteous for them, but just a little. It was a touching story that was sweet and humorous and a little sad at times- just like the season of most lives. The focus is very much divided so that it switches scenes and narrators constantly. I had no trouble following this as the story was familiar to me from reading the other books, but anyone trying to jump in with this one would be hopelessly lost. Pacing is gentle as is the action. There are several times when the reader is aware of things going on off-scene and it is assumed the reader already has prior knowledge of these activities because they are told in the earlier books.
The backdrop is Jane Austen’s P&P world, but it is not necessary to have read the original story to appreciate this series. The characters bare the same names and have slightly familiar characteristics, but they are new and different- very much Alexa Adams’ characters- which takes them in alternate directions. The historical backdrop of Regency times and holiday celebrations was a treat. I would love to participate in a Twelfth Night party after reading this story. I was pleased with the feeling of the historical time period without it overtaking the story.
The characters are the strength of the stories no doubt. Darcy and Lizzy are a tender couple who it was a pleasure to follow as they come into their own. Lady Catherine and Mr. Bennett are softer versions of themselves and hilarious the way they move about and manipulate their families. The Wickhams offer the closest things to villains with their conniving social climbing and greed. The pairings for Lizzy’s sisters and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana took place in the last book and they make brief appearances here too.
But I have to admit that the characters who really captured me along with their story was Charlotte and David. I love this autumn romance- or at least that’s how it feels to me. The depth of Charlotte’s character and her background had me in sympathy and pulling for her all the way. She isn’t pretty, witty, connected to wealth or power or talented in ways that will capture a gentleman’s eyes. She is just plain, sensible Charlotte who has secret longings to fall in love and have a happy home like her friend, but takes a practical approach to settling for any situation that will provide for her comfortably and take her off her father and brother’s hands. Her family are not hateful people, but they still can’t help wishing to get Charlotte off their hands and make this clear to her. I admired her so much because she really is the average woman like most of us.
David is this brilliant, scholarly sort who comes from a moderately wealthy background, but is content with his humble church work. He really cares for what he does, but at the same time, he likes that it gives him vast amounts of time to study and research. He thinks he is protecting Charlotte and any other woman by refusing them since he doesn’t see himself as very good husband material.
So watching these two fumble along toward their chance at happiness together was a real treat. In fact, the only grouse I have with this story is that I wanted more page time with these two. I felt that there could have been so much more. Truthfully, I would have cut out most of the catching up that was done with the Bennetts and Darcys to get that more with Charlotte and David (I know I just shocked all the Darcy and Lizzy lovers out there of which I am one).
In the end, I loved the story- the whole trio of books for that matter. It was a fun, engaging and sweet retelling of a timeless story and it is perfect for this time of the year with its holiday backdrop. I definitely recommend this for Austenesque fans, but also for those who enjoy sweet Historical Romances.
My thanks to Alexa Adams who provided my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Review by Sophia Rose
This is the second of the special reviews/posts I am doing in honor of the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen’s birthday in December. Special post on the 16th for her birthday that includes a theme-based giveaway. Austen is still popular today because of the universal themes she uses that are still holding true in our fiction and romance genres today. Some authors and readers love her stories so much that they engage in pursuing ‘what if’ questions about Austen’s books and characters that create a whole new story line. The book I reviewed here is one of them. Have you read any other books from this series or any other books/movies based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice? What did you think?
The author, Alexa Adams, is gratuitously offering a paperback copy to one lucky commenter. To enter, leave a comment below. US only. Giveaway ends December 1, 2013 at 11:59 PM.