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This book is a follow-on to ‘Mistaking Her Character’, which is a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation that I haven’t yet read, but I understand that in that variation, Mr Bennet is Dr Bennet, the private physician to Anne de Bourgh. He is a harsher and less forgiving man than Mr Bennet of canon. Here, Lydia has had a failed elopement with George Wickham but this hasn’t led to their marriage. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Darcy admits that his original intention was to remove Lydia from Wickham, not bring about the marriage, so I thought this was an excellent springboard for a variation:
‘He saw Wickham, and afterwards insisted on seeing Lydia. His first object with her, he acknowledged, had been to persuade her to quit her present disgraceful situation, and return to her friends as soon as they could be prevailed on to receive her, offering his assistance as far as it would go. But he found Lydia absolutely resolved on remaining where she was. She cared for none of her friends; she wanted no help of his; she would not hear of leaving Wickham; she was sure they should be married some time or other, and it did not much signify when. Since such were her feelings, it only remained, he thought, to secure and expedite a marriage.’ – from ‘Pride & Prejudice’ by Jane AustenAt first glance Lydia doesn’t seem like heroine fodder; she is flighty, silly, selfish, and she has forward manners but I always felt a little sorry for her. In ‘Pride & Prejudice’ the direction of her life is changed forever by a foolish decision made at the tender age of just 15 – it’s a high price to pay for teenage stupidity. Whose fault is it that she is so forward and over-confident? Her parents of course. Personally, I think we can absolve Mrs Bennet from a lot of the blame; she is a person of little natural refinement or taste and genuinely doesn’t see Lydia’s faults, but Mr Bennet does see her faults and is too apathetic and indolent to take the trouble to check her. Had he done so, who knows how differently she may have turned out.
When we first meet Lydia, en route to Mrs Drummell’s school for girls she is feeling extremely hard done by and unrepentant.
“You do not know—”
“I do not need to. Every girl who comes to this school has virtually the same story. Any many who would put you in position to be sent here, is no gentleman.”
Lydia tossed her head and sniffed. “Well, you are simply wrong. I am not like any of the others.”However, held in check by fear of corporal punishment she complies with the rules and little by little a different girl emerges. She starts to understand herself and is humbled by what she sees. Applying herself for the first time, Lydia realises that she has untapped talents; she is a gifted artist and can be a competent musician. Most helpfully of all, she also begins to realise that the most fun and attractive people in company are not always the most faithful friends and those who seem more dutiful and less exciting at first may prove to be better friends in the long run.
I loved the gradual growth in her character as she matured from a heedless, silly girl into a woman humbled by the realisation of the magnitude of her previous actions.
‘Lydia’s cheeks burned. Once she had gone into town and Mama pulled her and Kitty aside, pointing out a group of very pretty girls surrounded by a cloud of young men. She warned them to stay away from those ‘ladybirds’ as their reputations were tarnished and they were not fit company for good society. Could that be what those women were saying now—or worse?’Lydia begins to wonder whether she will ever be worthy of being loved, but with the regard of true friends, and a growth in self-esteem related to becoming an accomplished lady she at last learns how to be a true friend herself and put the needs of others before her own. This was a real coming of age story, and I very much enjoyed seeing the least promising Bennet sister finally tapping some of her potential. I’d recommend this book and I’d rate it as a 4½ star read.
*I was provided with an ebook of this story by the author for my honest review.
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Maria Grace is currently running a promotion to celebrate 'Mistaking Her Character', the first book in this series, being shortlisted for a RONE award. For a short time only, you can pick up some of Maria's titles, including 'Mistaking Her Character' for only 99p/99c in a range of formats - make haste!