Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
What if after the Netherfield Ball, both Darcy and Elizabeth were hurt by people very close to them?
What if Mr. Bennet’s insistence for Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins and Jane’s support of his decision caused Elizabeth to cut ties with her relations and escape to London and live with the Gardiners? And what if Caroline Bingley’s failed attempt to compromise Darcy and Bingley’s selfish demands that he marry his sister forced him end his relationship with his closest friend?
What if, a chance encounter in London brings these two lonely, burdened, and betrayed characters together, and allows them the opportunity to find friendship, happiness, and love…
Similar to several other Austenesque authors, Pamela Lynne has altered a few personality traits of several of Jane Austen’s characters to instigate a change in course – Mr. Bennet is forceful and scheming, Jane is jealous and resentful, and Mr. Bingley is selfish and lazy. There is a reason for these surprising alterations though, and as the story unfolds, the reader will understand the changes made and find them more believable. Even though I adore Mr. Bennet, Jane Bennet, and Mr. Bingley (you know I do!), it is interesting to explore a variation where they are the antagonists instead of the usuals – Wickham, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine.
The first third of this story is very Darcy-and-Elizabeth centric. Their reunion procures an understanding rather early on, but the plot grows with intensity and drama as the story branches out encompass more story-lines for their families. Stepping into the spotlight and fleshed out are the Fitzwilliams, de Bourghs, and Mary Bennet. I loved the story-lines for ALL these characters, each one was well-written, unique, and captivating. In addition, I greatly enjoyed how the story often changed point-of-view, giving readers a chance to understand and observe what was going on in many of the characters’ heads!
While I greatly enjoyed my time with Darcy and Elizabeth – their playful banters, their fervent devotion and need for each other, and their stolen sensual moments, I found myself equally enjoying the time spent with other characters, especially the Fitzwilliam family. In this variation, nearly all members of the Fitzwilliam family are debauched, derelict, and often…drunk! But for the sake of Darcy and supporting his decision to marry Elizabeth, they pull it together and reform some of their habits. It is believed that these negative impulses, baser instincts, and lack of self-control come with being a Fitzwilliam – something all Fitzwilliam descendants have and pass on to their offspring. I found this genetically flawed family so very entertaining, I loved learning about the dreaded and uncontrollable “inner Fitzwilliam” they all possess!
One story-line I was completely riveted to was Mary Bennet’s story-line. The difficulties at home with her parents force her to make some realizations and while she is very prim and proper, she loses her self-importance and sermonizing ways. I loved her development – her simplicity, openness, and kindness greatly endeared her to me. I especially loved her unconventional friendship with Viscount Hedley, I eagerly awaited each of their scenes together and found myself wanting many more! Besides Mary, I loved seeing a different side to Mr. Gardiner, Lady Catherine, and Anne de Bourgh. Lots of hidden secrets to be discovered about these characters!
Dearest Friends is an “excessively diverting” and enthralling Pride and Prejudice variation! I recommend this story to readers who love sensual romances and don’t mind seeing some of Jane Austen’s characters slightly altered. I can hardly wait to read more thoughtful and inventive tales by Pamela Lynne!
Warning: Due to the several intimate and romantic scenes that take place in this novel, I’d recommend this novel for Mature Audiences only.