Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Second Chance by Joana Starnes

Here is my review of The Second Chance by Joana Starnes, which was first published over at Leatherbound Reviews in June 2014.

Book Cover - The Second Chance by Joana Starnes
Earlier this year I read and really enjoyed The Subsequent Proposal by Joana Starnes which featured characters of both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. When I was offered the opportunity by Jakki to read The Second Chance by Joana, I read the blurb, and seeing that it featured characters from both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice I assumed that it would be similar to The Subsequent Proposal but actually it was quite different.

The Second Chance diverges from Pride and Prejudice pretty early on. The story begins at Netherfield, where Elizabeth has gone to nurse her sister, and Darcy has realised how the second Miss Bennet bewitches him and is fighting hard against it. Elizabeth receives a note informing her of her father being found unconscious. Mr Darcy is very comforting to her when she receives this awful news, and offers the practical assistance of sending for his doctor from town. Elizabeth begins to see that perhaps she has had an overly-harsh perception of Mr Darcy initially, and he is a better, more feeling man than she previously gave him credit for. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is in the early stages of her dislike of Darcy at this point, and much of this is done away by his solicitous behaviour towards her. So much so, that when a Mr Wickham arrives on the scene and tells her a tale of woe regarding Mr Darcy’s behaviour Elizabeth is not particularly disposed to give it much credence.

Although Mr Bennet recovers, he is diagnosed with a heart problem. He could survive for some time or drop down dead, leaving his widow and daughters destitute. By this point Mr Collins has arrived and has made his position clear. Mr Darcy is rather more in love with Elizabeth at this point than in canon and he makes a crazy decision. Rather than chance that Elizabeth may choose to sacrifice herself to ensure her sisters’ future security Darcy decides to give her an alternative option. He feels that he is unable to marry her, as her family is unacceptable, but he could secure her financial future. He has a smaller estate that he decides to sign over to her family, pretending that it has been left to Mr Bennet by an old university friend, who wished to remain anonymous. This sounds extremely generous, and it is, but it’s also gambling with the Bennets’ respectability – if anybody found out that the Bennets had been given an estate by an unrelated man there would probably be an assumption that one of the Miss Bennets was his mistress, and it could have ruined their whole family. It’s a pretty selfish action considering that he would be gambling with their respectability and reducing his family’s fortune in one fell swoop and the only reason he’s doing it is to try to prevent Elizabeth marrying before he’s had chance to get over her. If any of the Bennets or their relations find out it’s likely that they would be extremely offended, and Darcy’s motives could easily be misinterpreted.

As it happens, by the time Mr Bennet passes away Mrs Bennet and her daughters wouldn’t have been destitute as two of them have already married and are in a position to support their mother and sisters. But, being in possession of the Farringdon Estate in Devon, they move there, where they meet some characters who we would know from Sense and Sensibility - Sir John and Lady Middleton, Colonel Brandon and the garrulous Mrs Jennings, who immediately becomes fast friends with Mrs Bennet. There is also a visitor to the area that we would find familiar; Colonel Brandon has another colonel staying with him – a Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is very taken with the Misses Bennet, and believes he sees some partiality for them in his friend Brandon. Soon afterwards there are further newcomers to the area in the form of a widow, Mrs Dashwood, and her three daughters. Elizabeth and Kitty Bennet soon become good friends with Elinor and Marianne. This is where the storylines of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility start to merge, although differently to how Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion came together in the Subsequent Proposal. I thought the stories were intertwined really well – there were events from Sense and Sensibility that happened in much the same way as in that book, and other events unfolded differently due to the Bennets being there.  If you are not familiar with the intricacies of Sense and Sensibility then I wouldn’t worry too much, this story is primarily focused on Darcy and Elizabeth and the Pride and Prejudice characters.

Since Elizabeth never reaches the level of dislike that she has to overcome in canon the main thing keeping her and Darcy apart is him fighting a relationship due to societal gap between them. In Pride and Prejudice, although Elizabeth knows that there is a gap when she refuses Darcy, she doesn’t fully appreciate just how much higher Darcy stands in society than her father until she sees Pemberley. At the time of her scathing refusal she acknowledges the compliment of such a man’s affections, but in the moment she doesn’t have time to consider it, as she is so angry at his slights toward her family. Here Elizabeth is much more keenly aware of the gap between them and I felt sorry for her – the humbling realisation that it would be a poor marriage for Darcy couldn’t have been a comforting thought, and this theme is explored in some depth.

‘She had never imagined that the disparity between Pemberley and Netherfield, or between Pemberley and every place that she knew, for that matter, would be so marked.’

We are privy to Elizabeth’s thoughts and feelings throughout much of the book, but we are also treated to Darcy’s as well. What would a Pride and Prejudice variation be without some suffering for our dear hero?! Well there is quite a bit for him here and frankly he deserves every bit of it! It’s due to his own pride that he doesn’t pursue a relationship between himself and Elizabeth from the Netherfield days when he first begins to love her, and all the other delays, misunderstandings and conflict arise as a result of this, so although he goes through the mill it’s all self inflicted, as his comforting cousin and dear friend informs him:

‘I never expected a blunder of such magnitude! You do everything in a grander scale than the rest of us, do you not?’

I very much liked the portrayal of the characters in this story – I felt that Elizabeth and Darcy were pretty close to canon, Mrs Bennet was portrayed affectionately, Bingley as a sweet man with a lively sense of humour, and I also enjoyed Jane’s character here, especially when she showed some unexpected protective tendencies. We are also treated to an absence of some characters who I am quite happy to do without!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although it’s quite a long book and took me a while to read it never felt long. The storylines of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility merged and intertwined naturally and the style of the prose was delightful - charming and witty and there are some bits which are downright funny. There are also phrases of Austen’s weaved in throughout the book, often attributed to different characters, as unobtrusive nods back to Pride and Prejudice that I enjoyed spotting. It’s such a romantic read too. I would wholeheartedly recommend reading this!

5 star read

2 comments:

  1. OOh 5 stars!!! I have both of these books, I just need to get around to reading them. They are high on my TBR list yet I am low on time :) Great review as always!

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    1. Thank you Tamara. If you're low on time then read The Subsequent Proposal first, it's a faster read and very slightly my favourite of the two!

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