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This story is set 11 years into the Darcys’ marriage. Elizabeth is alarmed to wake and find two men in her bedroom – she recognises one as Mr Darcy, though she has no idea why he would be there. She learns that she has received a head injury and has been unconscious for 12 hours. The awful truth dawns on her that she is married to Mr Darcy. She cannot understand this, because the last she remembers is him leaving Hunsford Parsonage. She can’t remember reading his letter, or conceive of how she could have been convinced to marry him. Did he force her hand in some way?
Imagine the shock you would feel if you woke up and had lost such a large chunk of your life – you look in the mirror and see your twenty year old self is suddenly 32; your slim figure is now the body of a mother, and you are pregnant again; you have children who you neither remember nor recognise and you are married to somebody who you actively dislike and mistrust. It is the stuff of nightmares. You would feel like you no longer knew yourself.
‘She could find the ghost of her former self in the mirror. Behind the face of a matron and mother, she thought she could find traces of the maid she once was.’Imagine too, how awful this is for Mr Darcy. He has the worry of his wife’s health, the effect this may have on his children, and the emotional distress of having your loving wife’s feelings towards you being completely changed through no fault of your own. To Elizabeth’s credit, despite her dislike of Darcy and the greater problems she is dealing with, she is compassionate enough to realise that he is also a sufferer of her accident.
‘Darcy’s disappointed feelings where his wife was concerned had already become an object of her pity, but Elizabeth was pleased for Darcy’s sake that, while she could not love him, he had four children to do so.’Aside from mental distress and confusion, Elizabeth also has other symptoms to deal with in recovering from her injuries. She is very easily fatigued both physically and from activities requiring concentration. This means no long walks, no reading, no sewing. Jane lives at an estate only thirty miles away but is initially unable to visit as she has just had a baby. This means that Elizabeth is unable to do much of anything aside from spend time with her family of strangers and integrate into the household. Her only adult companionship is provided by Mr Darcy, who of course is not at ease, knowing what Elizabeth’s feelings must be toward him. One thing that Elizabeth is able to do is study the characters of Darcy and the children and slowly come to know them. But will knowing Darcy better mean that she is able to come to love him again? They are working through this situation side by side, but apart. Is there a way to fully bridge the gap?
This story was originally published online as a fanfiction called ‘Bruises’ which was recommended to me as a wonderful read and I was really pleased to see it published to a wider audience. I found 'Side by Side, Apart' to be a really absorbing story which I read in one sitting. It’s a story that is much more of an emotional journey than plot driven. I felt for the whole family as this was such a sad and worrying situation to find themselves in. I thought all the characters were well-drawn, most particularly Elizabeth. She is upset to find herself in her situation but I have always seen Elizabeth as very pragmatic; she isn’t a character to wail and wallow in misfortune but she will get on with whatever situation she is forced into. Here she is irrevocably bound to somebody she dislikes but she needs to get on with him civilly and she is not so unreasonable to close her eyes to his good qualities and his loving relationship with his children. She doesn’t have any particular feelings toward the children because they are strangers to her, but she is a compassionate person and is anxious not to upset them because she knows that to them she is their mother, even if she doesn’t feel like it.
I had such a lot of pity for Elizabeth in this situation, and the children too, but I almost pitied Darcy more! It would have been painful for him to have lived through Elizabeth hating him once, before they married, but to work through that and then have to go through it again must have been excruciating.
‘Elizabeth had maintained her silence on that score out of compassion, but such was in vain. Admitting she wondered whether she had ever loved him accomplished all the evils that asking him would have done.’He is really stuck between a rock and a hard place here, because he’s Elizabeth’s only companion so she needs him so she isn’t too lonely and to fill in the gaps in her knowledge and yet, hampered by the knowledge of how he knows she feels towards him each conversation must be torturous for him, yet necessary for her and their future relationship, whether it recovers to what it was or not.
The only thing I would have liked in this story was a little more detail towards the end as I thought emotionally things moved a little quicker then than in the rest of the story. I was a little surprised that the story didn’t have an epilogue because Austenesque stories often do. It wasn’t required, but it would have been nice to have known what happened after we left the family, because the story was left on a realistic happy ending rather than a happy ending where all loose ends are tied up neatly.
I liked the author’s style very much. I thought the dialogue was nicely Austenesque. The spelling was British, which was a nice surprise, and there were only a few words which I felt were out of place. There are no sex scenes in this book.
I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. Although it’s a sad situation and an emotional read it’s realistic emotion and not made too angsty. I really enjoyed the book and when I was looking through it for the parts I’d highlighted to look for quotes to use in this review I found myself reading it again! ‘Side by Side, Apart’ gets five stars from me.
* My thanks to the publisher, Meryton Press for providing me with an e-ARC of this book for my honest review as part of the 'Side by Side, Apart' blog tour, organised by Leatherbound Reviews
“You see what a strange circumstance it is,” she said, feeling some fleeting relief. “You know our acquaintance has not been easy.”
Elizabeth Bennet—stubborn, quick to judge but slow to revise her opinions, and entirely prejudiced against the man who had just proposed marriage at Hunsford—awakens to learn she has been in an accident. Bedridden in an unfamiliar house, she learns eleven years have passed since the last moment she can remember.
She finds herself a married woman, the mother of four, and pregnant yet again. Her children are strangers, and most mystifying of all, Fitzwilliam Darcy is her husband! How could she have married a man she loathes?
Confined to the house by her injury, Mr. Darcy’s company is inescapable. But is just being side by side enough to overcome their differences? What happens when Darcy, improved in manners and happily married to Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, is faced with an obstinate, bewildered Miss Elizabeth Bennet?
'Side by Side, Apart' is available to buy for kindle now!
Ann started writing sometime before she knew how letters functioned. Her first books were drawings of circus poodles heavily annotated with scribbles meant to tell a story. Upon learning how letters were combined to represent words, she started doing that instead. This has proven to be much more successful.
Sometime after that, she decided she wanted to study Anthropology and sometime after that, she decided she liked cats more than dogs. And sometime after that, she decided to become an educator and teach a new generation of kids how to combine letters to represent words, and use those words to express ideas.
And sometime after that, she realized all she really wanted to do was write, which probably should have been evident from the beginning.
2 May: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
3 May: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
4 May: Excerpt & Giveaway at Romance Novel Giveaways
5 May: Author Interview & Giveaway at Skipping Midnight
6 May: Review at Just Jane 1813
8 May: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
9 May: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
10 May: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
11 May: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
12 May: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton
13 May: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
14 May: Excerpt & Giveaway at Liz’s Reading Life