This Pride & Prejudice variation begins on New Year’s Eve. Darcy is in London, having fled Hertfordshire and the bewitching but unsuitable Miss Bennet. He has been making some laughable attempts to get over his infatuation with the Hertfordshire miss. Elizabeth is leaving an assembly in Meryton early with her upset sister and her thoughts touch on Darcy too – she is trying to cheer up Jane with a joke which refers to his comment about Elizabeth at the last Meryton Assembly. Just before midnight, both make a New Year’s wish. She wishes for Mr Darcy to want something he cannot have, while he wishes for the end to his search for somebody to replace Elizabeth in his heart, and to see her one last time.
When the carriage Elizabeth is travelling in crashes in the icy conditions and she suffers a head injury both of their wishes are granted. She finds herself in a wonderful, unfamiliar library (you can read an excerpt of this part here, where Elizabeth discovers the ability to read the books just by touching them, every bookworm’s dream for powering through our TBR lists!), and she is extremely put out at the sudden appearance of Mr Darcy in her ‘dream’.
‘This was her dream, for heaven’s sake, and who is to show up and ruin it? One Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley! It was just too much.’
However, this isn’t a dream; while Elizabeth’s body is in Hertfordshire, unconscious, her spirit is haunting Mr Darcy. Darcy, as can be expected, believes he has conjured the apparition himself:
‘He allowed himself to contemplate the truth of the matter before him. He was imagining her in perfect detail, and his infatuation with her had surely reached proportions beyond sanity.’
For the evening he is happy to believe it’s a dream, but when she’s still there the next day, and the next he genuinely fears for his sanity, and tries to rid himself of his ghost. When this doesn’t work, he again pays attention to Elizabeth’s spirit, and thus begins one of the most unusual courtships you are likely to read about. Elizabeth is unable to move more than 10 paces away from Darcy, which means she is in his company 24 hours a day. Seeing him live his life, watching his interactions with others and interacting with him herself leads Elizabeth to re-evaluate her views of Darcy. Being together so much also blurs some of the lines of propriety that Darcy would usually be so keen to uphold, and they become much closer.
‘Elizabeth’s heart began to beat unsteadily at hearing him call her the object of his admiration. Much to her dismay, the idea settled most stubbornly in the proximity of that traitorously beating organ.’
Sigh! But is it real or is it a dream? And how will Elizabeth’s body and spirit become reunited?
I was hopeful I’d enjoy this book since it comes from the author of one of my favourite Austenesque books, ‘Bluebells in the Mourning’ and I did, it was just beautiful. So, so romantic, humorous, with wonderful characters. Personally, I prefer characters to be as close as possible to Jane Austen’s creations unless their character change is part of the variation from canon, and I felt that this author did a very good job of it. Obviously, due to the nature of the story Elizabeth and Darcy get the vast majority of page time, which is no bad thing, but the other characters that were present were affectionately portrayed and felt real to me. Mr and Mrs Bennet have their faults, but their love for their daughters was ever-present and I was very pleased to see some character growth for Lydia as she discovered some sisterly solidarity and decided to put sisters before misters for once! Colonel Fitzwilliam was in role as Darcy’s trusted advisor and did well in drawing him out, aside from a really amusing scene when he got drunk on Darcy’s port! I really enjoyed the portrayal of a somewhat more feisty Georgiana who is worried about her brother and determined that she won’t be shut out of helping him overcome the problems he is experiencing.
The only downside for me was that I was a little disappointed when Darcy retreats the instant he had a setback. One of the things I like best about Darcy is his persevering nature. In Pride & Prejudice when he first meets with Elizabeth at Pemberley he has very little hope, but yet he still keeps trying to see her, and even follows her later to Hertfordshire on the basis of what little hope he has. However, this really is a minor quibble.
For those of you who prefer to avoid sex scenes you will be pleased to know that there is nothing of that sort in this book and for those of you who like sex scenes, you may well not miss them when there is this much romance to enjoy! I would most definitely recommend reading this book, I thought it was wonderful!