Anne decides on a plan of action to help her cousin successfully woo Miss Bennet, and she begins by befriending her. Elizabeth is much less strongly against Darcy than in canon and although she sees that Anne is trying to repair her opinion of Darcy Elizabeth is regretful of her treatment of him and she’s happy to enter into a correspondence with Anne. This means that Anne is aware of Elizabeth’s plans and whereabouts and she’s more able to arrange a ‘chance’ meeting between Elizabeth and Darcy.
The thing I probably liked best about this book was the fleshing out of Anne’s character. Although frail, she is a very determined lady (well, she is Lady Catherine’s daughter after all!) She genuinely loves her cousins and wants the best for them. Georgiana is also very sweet in this variation. She is much less shy than canon, and very quick on the uptake. She and Darcy are close and in a moment of weakness he mentions something to her regarding being told by an intelligent lady that one bad sonnet was sufficient to drive love away. Georgiana immediately latches on to the significance of this, and from then on is on the lookout for the lady she dubs ‘Miss Sonnet’ so she can help smooth her brother's path to love.
Some better-established characters are different too. Lizzy is much less set against Darcy and comes to a realisation even while still at Kent that she and Darcy could possibly have been happy together. By the time she’s finished reading his letter she has begun to regret refusing him. There was also a big difference in Jane Bennet who has learned a harsh lesson from Bingley’s abandonment and now isn’t so predisposed to forgiveness, and she also re-assesses her view of her parents and the upbringing she and her sisters have had.
There are also some new characters, such as Bingley having a much larger family, although we only meet his eldest brother George, who is an extremely hard-headed and successful business man, less genteel than his youngest siblings, but relied upon by some of the people with more breeding than money. Another original character was the delightful Lord Antony Fitzwilliam, who also appeared in A Wife for Mr Darcy. Lord Antony (Note: I’m not sure people were addressed Lord ‘firstname’ but I’m not saying it’s wrong because the naming conventions with titles pickle my brain!) is Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother. He is a gambler, constantly in debt, and has a very hostile marriage but he is well worth having in a story because of his amusement value due to his facetious sayings and lack of tact. When Mrs Hurst is talking about visiting a sister he came out with this gem of quote, which certainly made me, a proud Welshwoman, chortle:
“But not in Wales, I hope. The Celtic race was pushed into the corners, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and in the case of the Irish, onto their own island. People who live in corners are always odd and should be avoided.”
The Darcy in this story is devoted to Elizabeth, but he hasn’t been a monk up until this point, and there are references to him having had mistresses and lovers in the past, and a few sexual references which some readers may not like. However, I am in the camp that think it wouldn’t have been unlikely for this to have been the case, it wasn’t a dishonourable thing to do, especially for a single man of the times. What I was a little surprised at is that Elizabeth doesn’t seem bothered by this idea. Being of a lower class of society than him, and being younger I felt that she might not have held such cosmopolitan views.
I felt that this was like a cross between an alternate point of view retelling and a variation. One of the things I really like about variations is that seemingly small changes can have a ripple effect and end up making things quite different but this isn’t the case here, although some different things happen, all the major plot milestones remain the same, I would have liked to have seen things change a bit more. For example, the character of George Bingley played a role in a particular part in this story and it made only a little difference to the outcome from the original book. The changes here are more nuances than seismic shifts. However, I found it an enjoyable, romantic read, the type that when you look up from your book you realise a very long time has passed since you last looked at a clock and you should have gone to sleep two hours ago, which is a fine accolade!