Thursday 23 January 2014

The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler

This is a 'what if' variation on Pride and Prejudice.  The story begins at Lambton when Mr Darcy goes to see Lizzy.  In P&P she's just finished reading a very distressing letter from Jane, but in this book the letter doesn't contain any alarming news and Mr Darcy gets the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth. She and the Gardiners are invited to Pemberley, get to know Mr Darcy and Georgiana better and Mr Bingley is made aware of Jane's feelings towards him.

One of the big themes in this book is the language of flowers.  Each flower has a meaning, and Darcy and Georginana prepare a nosegay for Lizzy that would hint to Darcy's continuing feelings for her.  In return, Lizzy leaves a floral message for Mr Darcy which is a bit more coy, but the centre of it is a red chrysanthemum, which means 'I love'.  Unfortunately, the stem is cut too short and it falls out of the arrangement so he doesn't see it at the time. Lizzy knows that Darcy has feelings for her but feels that she can't expect a man she rejected so vehemently to propose again, and Darcy knows her feelings have softened somewhat towards him but can't trust that they've changed enough to risk a second proposal. Some things are too important to leave to the language of flowers...

I enjoyed this romance although I felt that the characters were more open with each other than I felt was likely - Georgiana's near elopement was known by pretty much everybody rather than being the closely-guarded secret that it was in Pride and Prejudice, and the characters were also more touchy-feely than I felt was likely. I also felt that it was unlikely that after so much encouragement on both sides that either Elizabeth or Darcy would have doubts in relation to the other's feelings. Aside from these quibbles I found the characters amusing and engaging.

I would add in a warning for those people who don't like sex scenes, the last section of the book following the wedding deals with Darcy's lustful thoughts and Elizabeth's sexual awakening in some detail, so for those people I'd advise skipping the last 60 pages or so and going straight to the epilogue.

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