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Jenetta James’ ‘The Elizabeth Papers’ grips you from the opening page of the prologue – it starts with a letter from Fitzwilliam Darcy, written in his old age. Mr Darcy is desirous of setting up a trust which will only benefit his female descendents, stating as his reasons that a family of females may prove vulnerable, like Elizabeth’s family would have, had he and Bingley not supported them. Having a family of five daughters himself, in addition to his son, Darcy wants to ensure that his future female descendents will be safe. There is a hint in Darcy’s letter at some sort of mystery...
‘It is to be an entail in favour of the women in my family. It is in my mind to use the estate at Rosschapel for this purpose. You and I, alone in the world, understand the significance of that.’We then flashback to Elizabeth’s diary – here she is a matron of five years’ standing and a mother of two girls so far, and pregnant again. Her marriage is very happy, but she is keen to provide Mr Darcy with an heir:
“If I knew some manner of magic that would assure Mr. Darcy of a son to join his two daughters, then I would do it.”Another switch in time and viewpoint follows, to London in 2014 where we meet Evie Pemberton, an aspiring artist, and a man currently unknown to her, Charlie Haywood. Charlie runs a successful private detective agency and is not much bothered about the morals of a situation, just finding the facts and getting his fee. A new client wants him to look into the youngest Darcy daughter, Victoria, who, it is rumoured, wasn’t Mr. Darcy’s daughter at all. If this daughter’s female descendents (Evie and her sister Clemmie) are removed as beneficiaries of the trust, the amount received by the other beneficiaries will increase, and it’s a substantial sum.
So, Charlie begins his investigation – it seems as though there may be some papers relating to Elizabeth Darcy that may contain some sort of explanation, but where are they, what is the truth surrounding Victoria Darcy and can Charlie find out without completely alienating Evie?
The jumping around in time sounds confusing but I didn’t find it so; most of the jumps were between Elizabeth’s diary, as she deals with family pressures and worries more and more about what the lack of an heir might do to her marriage, and 2014, where Charlie begins to realise the potential implications of his work and his growing attraction to Evie.
We follow both sides, the past detailing events as they unfold and the present time taking steps in the investigation and I thought the two different parts flowed together surprisingly well. I found Elizabeth’s side of things was very plausible, because her most vital responsibility, as mistress of an estate is to provide an heir – I really felt for her. As time goes on the elephant in the room just gets bigger and bigger.
‘Although I have made merry at her expense all my life, I am now contrite. For I have never understood my mama better than I understand her now.’The jumps to the future provided a real change of pace and there was a minor character that I particularly enjoyed. Charlie’s cousin, Peter, seemed like lovely bloke but he had a real knack for putting his foot in it!
The story was unusual in construction because not only was it set in two different periods but it’s also more than one genre – mystery and the most beautiful romance. The truth of the mystery wasn’t that hard for the reader to predict because there are indicators in Elizabeth’s diary before the events happen, but seeing how the modern sleuths fare made for an exciting read. There was more emotion in the historical part including an event that was written so touchingly that it made me cry! I thought the author captured Elizabeth’s character believably, which is important, as sections of the book are written from her perspective. I liked the opportunity to catch up with many of the main characters from ‘Pride & Prejudice’ – all of the Bennet sisters and their parents appear plus Colonel Fitzwilliam and even Caroline Bingley! I also really enjoyed the original storyline. For those who prefer to avoid sex and bad language there was only one instance of swearing that I noticed and no detailed sex scenes. I would certainly recommend this book and I’d rate it as a 4½ star read.
*I received an e-ARC of this book for my honest review courtesy of Meryton Press as part of the blog tour, organised by Leatherbound Reviews
“It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world.” —Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
Charlie Haywood is a London-based private investigator who has made his own fortune—on his own terms. Charming, cynical, and promiscuous, he never expected to be attracted to Evie Pemberton, an emerging and independent-minded artist living with the aftermath of tragedy. But when he is hired to investigate her claims to a one hundred and fifty year old trust belonging to the eminent Darcy family, he is captivated.
Together they become entwined in a tale of love, loss, and mystery tracing back to the grand estate of Pemberley, home to Evie’s nineteenth century ancestors, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy.
How could Evie know that in 1817 Elizabeth Darcy began a secret journal? What started as an account of a blissful life came to reflect a growing unease. Was the Darcy marriage perfect or was there betrayal and deception at its heart?
Can Evie and Charlie unearth the truth in the letters of Fitzwilliam Darcy or within the walls of present-day Pemberley? What are the elusive Elizabeth papers and why did Elizabeth herself want them destroyed?
Jenetta James is the nom de plume of a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs. Darcy is her first novel.
As this is a blog tour there are opportunities to read other reviews and learn more about the book and the author. Attached to some of these posts are giveaways, with four paperbacks and four e-books in total being given away. Check out the links below for more info as the posts go live!
The Elizabeth Papers Blog Tour Schedule:
30 May: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
31 May: Excerpt & Giveaway at Romance Novel Giveaways
1 June: Review at Tomorrow is Another Day
1 June: Guest Post & Giveaway at Liz’s Reading Life
2 June: Review at From Pemberley to Milton
3 June: Guest Post at Moonlight Reader
4 June: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
5 June: Review at Just Jane 1813
6 June: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
7 June: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time…
8 June: Character Interview at More Agreeably Engaged
9 June: Author Interview at Savvy Verse & Wit
10 June: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
10 June: Excerpt & Giveaway at Skipping Midnight
11 June: Review at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
12 June: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
13 June: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars