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One of the main ways to change the story of Pride & Prejudice is for Mr Bennet to die. The Bennet ladies were woefully protected financially as Mr Bennet had never saved and the Longbourn estate was entailed to Mr Bennet’s cousin Mr Collins, as the Bennets had no sons. If Mr Bennet had died before any of his daughters had married, what would have happened to them? The girls and Mrs Bennet would have had two routes open to them – to live with whichever of their family or friends would take them in, or to earn a living in the only acceptable way for gentlewomen; governess or companion, though this would come with a drop in status. In Joana Starnes’ ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is in this situation. The elder two Miss Bennets have gone to live with their Uncle in London, Mr Gardiner, while Mrs Bennet and the three youngest Bennet sisters remain in Meryton with Mr and Mrs Phillips.
Miss Elizabeth has chosen to lighten the load on her uncle by taking the post of interim governess to the children of Lady Stretton, who is Colonel Fitzwilliam’s sister-in-law. In this role, Elizabeth has made the acquaintance of Miss Darcy, who has been staying with the family while Mr Darcy made his annual visit to Rosings Park, and Miss Darcy has taken a real fancy to the young lady who is so kind to her young cousins. Elizabeth’s role is temporary, which is just as well, as although her charges, two girls, are very sweet children, their mother is horrible, and their brother a spoilt little beast. Georgiana has come to value Elizabeth’s friendship and pleads with her brother that he consider offering Elizabeth the role of companion in preference to Mrs Younge, who Georgiana has taken a dislike to.
Darcy is unsure of the wisdom of this course, as Miss Bennet is young and inexperienced, but, persuaded by the Colonel and Georgiana, and by the urging of feelings of pity and sympathy he agrees to employ Miss Bennet.
“Truly, Fitzwilliam, have we set out to choose a companion for Georgiana or to rescue Miss Bennet from your sister’s clutches?”However, Miss Bennet is a surprisingly good fit in the Darcy household, after some initial hiccups. Miss Darcy’s confidence ibuilds and she spends many happy hours with her new friend. Mr Darcy also begins to enjoy Miss Bennet’s company, finding that she has a keen mind and offers him an excellent challenge in chess. Then news comes from Miss Bingley, whose brother is causing her distress by his attentions to the eldest Miss Bennet, who is visiting her mother in Meryton. Darcy is worried – partly at whether Miss Bingley’s assertions are true and that her brother is being taken in, and partly at the thought that, if Miss Bennet’s sister marries one of Darcy’s friends, she can hardly continue as Georgiana’s paid companion. This thought occurs to more than one of the party.
“The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive,” Fitzwilliam observed.’
‘Their daily get-together for refreshment, in the house or elsewhere, had always been a pleasure, but not so today. Georgiana was still ill at ease when Darcy excused himself and left the parlour in reasonably high dudgeon with his reckless friend and Bingley’s attorney, and as for Miss Bennet, she was very sombre and subdued.’Miss Bingley’s letter continues to affect the interactions of those at Pemberley, which annoys Darcy very much:
‘It vexed him greatly that she might have been to blame for depriving him of the enjoyment of a rewarding conversation or a challenging game of chess, and equally so for making his sister’s companion tread on eggshells in a house where she had previously felt nearly as carefree as in her former home.”Is this the only reason why Miss Bennet’s manner has changed? Why is Darcy so cross at the thought of having to find a new companion for his sister? And with a different companion for Miss Darcy, will she be targeted by impecunious boyhood friends of her brother, or is she safe?
I am a big fan of Joana Starnes’ stories and this one was just wonderful, full of romantic moments and hints of feelings unsuspected by the other characters and even in some cases by the characters who are having the feelings! The story is presented predominantly from Darcy’s viewpoint for the first half and Elizabeth’s in the latter half and it was very entertaining to see the misunderstandings of feelings, though this meant that the exquisite agony that this author usually puts characters through isn’t seen as overtly here for quite a portion of the book, more hinted at. Darcy is more oblivious than he is usually presented in variations, and while this was quite loveable, it makes him slightly less of a romantic figure than we are used to at first. However, as the book progresses we get to see despairing feelings from more than one character, which was very satisfying. There was also a reference to an aria that relates to hidden love which I thought was very evocative - it's not directly in the text, but the words are right at the beginning of the book and the aria comes later:
'My lips dare not reveal my love... Sigh!
But bright and eager eyes might show the raging fire
My eyes will speak for me'
This was a lovely, romantic read and I would recommend it without hesitation. There are no sex scenes or distressing themes so it’d be suitable for all historical romance readers looking for an escape for a few hours. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’d rate it as a five star read.
*I was provided an e-book of this story by the author for my honest review.
Joana’s guest post to comment. You can gain a bonus entry for the giveaway by commenting on this review post too. The giveaway closes at the end of the day on Friday 17 June.
At the end of the e-book there is an excerpt from Joana’s next book, which was a lovely surprise as I had no idea she had another work in progress already. Hopefully when this new book is published Joana will come back to visit Babblings of a Bookworm to let us know more about it. You can see some of her past visits to the blog here, as well as my reviews of her previous books.