Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
What if poor Anne de Bourgh’s sudden death brought Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam (and Georgiana!) back to Kent before Elizabeth Bennet left?
What if Anne de Bourgh was more aware and intelligent than expected and revealed all her thoughts and observations in her journals?
What if Elizabeth was instructed to remain in Kent because she was included in Anne de Bourgh’s Last Will and Testament?
Anne’s death not only brings Darcy and Elizabeth back into contact with each other immediately after Elizabeth’s vehement refusal of his disastrous proposal, but also brings about a dramatic change in circumstance for several characters in this story. It would appear that poor Anne holds more power and influence in death than in life. And Lady Catherine, who is most seriously displeased with her daughter’s secret plans to escape and exertion of control, does not handle these developments and revelations well…and what she does in retaliation is equally horrifying and hilarious!
Oh my! I was immediately attracted to this novel because of it featuring Anne de Bourgh, and Linda Beutler’s portrayal of Anne was one of my favorite aspects in this novel. I loved that Anne had a journal that revealed her memories, thoughts, and true personality to the reader. Anne’s voice, for me, felt reminiscent of Jane Austen in her candid and sometimes sharp-tongued commentary. I loved how quiet and unassuming Anne saw and understood all, but never let on. Well done! I appreciate how she tries to escape her mother and found that part of the premise (while shocking) to be fascinating. It put me in mind of Jane Austen’s allusion to Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey in Mansfield Park and the starling who cried “I can’t get out.” Like Maria Rushworth, Anne daringly takes matters into her own hands.
Another aspect of this story I greatly enjoyed was seeing how Darcy and Elizabeth would interact with each other now they are once again thrown together. There aren’t many variations that explore this scenario and take place primarily in Kent in the days and weeks following Darcy’s failed proposal. I thought both Darcy and Elizabeth were well-drawn in this variation. I liked how Elizabeth was brave enough to overcome her confused feelings and awkwardness to show sympathy and kindness towards Darcy. It was admirable how her concern and compassion prompted her to act, smile, and offer what small help she can. My heart went out to Darcy in his pain and longing. I love how he was constant in his regard and always appreciated Elizabeth’s worth. There gentle friendship, while masking their faithful and fervent love for each other, was pleasing to witness.
One aspect of the story I didn’t enjoy as much as the rest was Colonel Fitzwilliam’s quest for a wife. I felt he was being pulled/went in too many directions. Anne and Darcy had some matchmaking schemes in mind for our good colonel which didn’t quite set right with me. For Anne it was confusing because she claimed to understand Darcy’s affections and yet also had this lady in mind as a possible lady’s companion. For Darcy, I felt it was too soon and a little unfeeling. Overall, the colonel seemed to consistently waver with his feelings towards the women in this story and his actions were just a little too precipitous for my taste.
A Will of Iron is delightfully shocking and diverting variation of Pride and Prejudice! It was fun to explore the macabre and sinister doings in Kent. I loved how the author gave Lady C her “just desserts” and laughed out loud at the hand that served it to her! Poetic justice indeed! This tale is full of madness, murder, and matchmaking mayhem and certainly is not to be missed by readers who would love to see more of Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine, and explore their family drama!
Note: The last 20-25 pages of the book do include several intimate romantic scenes and occasionally Anne’s journal entries contain some more graphic content. Recommended for Mature Audiences.