This being a sequel rather than a variation I expected the characters to be quite close to Austen’s and on the whole I would say that they are, which I was glad to see as although I understand that sometimes authors need to change the characters for plot purposes I prefer them to be as close to the original as possible. I particularly enjoyed the poignancy of Mr Bennet’s farewell to his favourite daughter:
‘The only time she had come near tears was when her father had called her into his library the evening before and said: “Well, now, Lizzy, tomorrow you will be Mrs. Darcy. I shall miss you greatly.” She had expected him to finish his statement with some witticism about how there would be no sense in the house now, but he could not; there were tears in his own eyes.’Elizabeth goes off to her now life to progress from being Miss Bennet to being Mrs Darcy. To take on the responsibilities of rank, of supporting her new sister as well as her Bennet sisters into as good a place as possible in society, and the biggest change of all, that of becoming a wife:
‘She felt she understood him even better, now, that there would be a public Mr. Darcy, and a private Mr. Darcy, and as much as she had finally come to understand the former, the latter she would now discover.’I had assumed that this sequel was to focus on Elizabeth’s transition to a lady of society and mistress of a great estate but although this is touched on, Elizabeth gets a very short space of time to focus on herself before she is called upon to instead focus on Georgiana and launch her into society. I wasn’t sure of the need for this hurry, as Georgiana would only be around 17 at this time, and I couldn’t help but think that it might have been better to have Elizabeth well-launched in society before she attempted to launch off her new sister. However, this is what happens, and Elizabeth, as a good sister, also invites the unmarried Bennet sisters to be launched into society. Though both Mary and Kitty visit, Mary isn’t that interested in being part of society. However, Kitty shows that she is a lot more shrewd than her previous behaviour might have led the reader to suppose. She has learned something from Lydia’s marriage, even if Lydia hasn’t:
‘Kitty had, for several years, been nearly as silly as Lydia. But Kitty received her own private letters from Lydia, and she knew that married life with a man of insufficient income was not nearly the same as what her elder sisters were about to achieve. She had come to understand that a good marriage would be necessary for her future happiness and independence, although she still harboured hope that it might somehow be with a man who wore a red coat.’I was extremely fond of the character of Kitty in this book. She was sweet and thoughtful, bubbly, and an excellent friend to Georgiana. Georgiana was a little harder to like, I thought she was more self-absorbed than Kitty. Elizabeth wasn’t quite her sparkling self, she had a lot on her plate, with worries about society and how she was doing as Mrs Darcy and neglecting her own needs for the sake of the needs of Georgiana and Kitty. I felt quite indignant on her behalf, particularly as Jane does nothing to help! At the end of P&P it is said that Kitty spends her time with her older married sisters but for most of this book Jane is nowhere to be seen and this leaves Elizabeth dealing with a lot, not that she seems to mind. Elizabeth didn’t resent it, but I was somewhat resentful on her behalf!
I could understand some of Georgiana’s focus on herself; Kitty doesn’t have the baggage of a large dowry. If a man likes her then it’s probably fair to say that it means that he genuinely likes her. Georgiana was almost taken advantage of by Wickham and this has left her doubting her own judgement and whether or not she is loveable. In town there are far more fortune hunters than in Ramsgate, so the poor girl is always questioning whether attentions paid towards her are genuine.
Although I would have liked a little more page time for Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship, what we see is lovely and it’s just as I would have supposed. Each of them is protective and caring towards the other, and Mr Darcy learns to tease, as we always knew he would!
“You have been oddly silent about my portrait, Darcy. I know you must have some opinion of it.”
“It is tolerable, but not so handsome as the original.”
It took a moment for his statement to register with her, and then she laughed heartily. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”
“Since well before Mr. Thorpe began.”
“I should never have taught you to tease.”
“I would have learned anyway, with such an example before me.”
For those of you who like to be warned about such things, there are no sex scenes, bad language or content that is likely to upset. The language in this novel was pretty good, although there were some words that were too modern, such as fiancé, and some American phrases. The homonyms were sometimes a little off, most noticeably with story/storey.
One thing that particularly stood out for me with this story is that the author had obviously done quite a bit of research, bringing in Napoleon, and information about ships and life in the navy in addition to facts about the Corn Laws and resulting riots, which I found particularly interesting.
This story is very much a family saga style story rather than plot-driven. It’s low on drama, and quite slow-paced. At times I would have liked a little more pace, particularly in the first part of the book, which was set in town. I was just as eager as Elizabeth to get to Pemberley! I was told before I read this book that it was the first in a series but that there was no cliffhanger, and this is absolutely true. It ends at the close of a chapter in the families’ lives but there are still a number of characters whose story isn’t quite told, and I’d like to know what happens next for them so I’ll certainly plan to read the follow up to this book, which I understand is planned for later this year. I’d recommend this read, particularly to those readers who like family sagas, and I’d rate it as a 4 star read.
*I received an ebook copy of this book for my honest review.