Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Similar to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds, Mr. Darcy’s Proposal by Susan Mason-Milks, and An Arranged Marriage by Jan Hahn, this Pride and Prejudice variation by debut author Jeanna Ellsworth explores the possibility of Elizabeth being forced into an unwanted and unexpected marriage. However, in this scenario, Elizabeth is completely unaware of Darcy’s true feelings for her. Darcy did not speak of love and ardent admiration in his proposal and she believes he desires this marriage as little as she does…
What does Elizabeth to do when she finds herself married to a man she hardly knows and whisked off far away from her loved ones? She breaks down and sobs uncontrollably, but then determines to accept her fate and build a happy, albeit loveless, marriage with Darcy. (Oh! How I loved these heartrending and deeply emotive scenes!)
What does Elizabeth do when she feels the stirrings of love and admiration for her husband with whom she has only shared a platonic relationship with? She keeps those feelings to herself. (It was such delicious torture to watch Darcy and Elizabeth hide their true feelings and battle their fear, doubt, jealousy, and various misunderstandings!)
One of the features I enjoyed most about this variation was the fact that Darcy did not declare himself to be in love with Elizabeth. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is cognizant of how much Darcy loves and admires her, but in this variation she is left to wonder why he married her. I took much pleasure in watching the budding relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth develop. Their early awkwardness and tentative friendship grow into a beautiful romance and courtship – quite an unusual start to a marriage!
Other aspects of the story I took pleasure in were the author’s use of symbolism and thematic motifs. Elizabeth’s care and interest in the chickens at Pemberley and her reoccurring dreams reveal a lot about her character and feelings to both the reader and to Darcy. In addition, I appreciated how Jeanna Ellsworth frequently returned to the themes of hope and keeping promises. Both Darcy and Elizabeth hold out hope that their marriage will become more than it is and Darcy makes more than one important promise to Elizabeth…which she frequently teases him about!
This variation is largely Darcy-and-Elizabeth centric, so much so that it feels like the other characters are sometimes forgotten. Characters such as Mary Bennet, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins are almost never mentioned, and it often felt like Georgiana received too little page time. I know that Darcy and Elizabeth are newlyweds and that they were building a relationship, but Georgiana is a part of their family and it seems like they were too often leaving her alone. Especially since they both knew that something was troubling her. In addition, I did feel that the Wickham plot line came to a very abrupt conclusion. It seems like the Darcys weren’t as impacted by the events that took place as they should have been.
Despite my small quibbles, I found this to be a memorable, endearing, and poignant variation. I loved watching Darcy and Elizabeth fall in love and build a beautiful marriage together. I greatly look forward to reading more from Jeanna Ellsworth!!