I’ve read lots of Pride and Prejudice variations, but none which crossed over with another Austen book as much as this one. What if, after the disastrous Hunsford proposal, Mr Darcy went off heartbroken, in the belief that Elizabeth Bennet would never reconsider her feelings towards him? What if he felt he could never love another, but had found a friend in a lady who soothed his feelings and proved herself a genuine good friend to Georgiana? A friend who is unappreciated by her own family? Darcy needs to marry at some point, and meeting and getting to know Miss Anne Elliot (from Persuasion) provides some balm to his wounds. He is persuaded by Colonel Fitzwilliam to think of matrimony and the story begins with Darcy actually proposing marriage to Anne (Nooooooo!).
Darcy is honest with her that he loves another, and Anne hints at her own disappointment in love. I felt quite sorry for Anne at this point, but let’s be honest, a loveless but respectful marriage with a good man would be better than having to live with HER relatives. Sir Walter insists on a long engagement that will not be announced for some time, to give Miss Elizabeth Elliot chance to make a match rather than see the indignity of having two younger sisters marry before her (although there is no delay mentioned in Persuasion Captain Wentworth is less of a catch financially than Darcy, so I felt this was plausible). After sealing their tepid deal, Anne goes to stay with Lady Russell, and Darcy back to town. Here he meets with Bingley who tells him that both of the elder Miss Bennets have been to Pemberley while travelling with the Gardiners, in the company of one of Mrs Gardiner’s school friends, Mrs Croft, her husband and her brother, Captain Wentworth, who seems disposed to court one of the Misses Bennet. Darcy feels that his interference in Bingley’s affairs may have cost his friend his happiness so he sets off to Hertfordshire to give him what assistance he can, meaning that he crosses the path of Elizabeth Bennet once more, and starts to hope that her feelings towards him may have changed, even though it’s too late...
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is told in the third person, but we are privy to Darcy’s thoughts and passionate feelings, which makes his decisions easier to understand. The early parts of it where Darcy is dealing with his misery were almost painful to read, but were really compelling. Once Darcy has hopes that Elizabeth has changed her mind towards him he is almost as miserable, because he’s not in a position to propose. He is also very jealous of Captain Wentworth, who makes no secret of his plans to propose to Elizabeth, and the two men have a mutual distrust and dislike which was almost comedic, there are many looks of loathing directed at each other!
Poor Anne is almost completely forgotten by Darcy as he interacts with the bewitching Miss Bennet and gets caught up in events relating to the Bennet family. I felt even more sorry for Anne at this point, but knowing that she is supposed to end up married to Captain Wentworth, the man she loves really helped me forgive Darcy’s behaviour in overlooking his responsibilities somewhat.
“His first, his only thought had been of her. Her happiness, her comfort. Not Georgiana’s, and certainly not Anne’s.”
Although there are the characters from two Austen books here it’s very much a Pride and Prejudice variation. We see very little of Anne, and other characters from Persuasion such as Sir Walter are only in the story briefly. Characters from Pride and Prejudice such as Jane and Mr Bingley play a larger part in the story, and I felt that they were really captured well. I particularly liked the affectionate way the embarrassing and voluble Mrs Bennet was portrayed:
“Mrs Bennet had taken up her post at one of the tall windows that overlooked the garden – and if the curtains did not twitch, it was only due to her mastery of the art.”
I felt this story had everything; there was emotion, there was passion, there was a lot of humour and a big tangle to unravel to ensure that both of our couples got a happy ending. I read it in one sitting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the first book I’ve read this year and what a way to begin! I’d recommend this book without hesitation, I really did love it.