Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
What if Elizabeth Bennet met and became friends with Georgiana Darcy in Ramsgate?
What if, after hearing about Georgiana’s attachment to Wickham and plans to secretly elope, Elizabeth wrote an anonymous letter alerting Mr. Darcy?
What if Darcy and Elizabeth meet later on in Hertfordshire with previous knowledge of each other and have a much better first impression?
In her second inventive and creative Pride and Prejudice variation, Suzan Lauder shows readers what happens when Elizabeth knows all about and secretly helps prevent Georgiana’s would-be scandal in Ramsgate. In this story Elizabeth accompanies her aunt Gardiner for an extended stay visiting a friend in Ramsgate (since Mr. Gardiner is detained in London) the same time Georgiana and Mrs. Younge are there. In this scenario, readers witness many scenes that take place before the start of Pride and Prejudice such as Mr. Darcy’s hiring of Mrs. Younge, Wickham’s romantic pursuit of Georgiana, and Darcy’s unexpected arrival and rescue. Post-Ramsgate Elizabeth and Georgiana remain friends and keep in touch through correspondence, and it is with a completely different mindset that Darcy and Elizabeth meet in Meryton.
Georgiana’s adulatory praise for each and the absence of mistaken prejudices paves the way for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to form a friendship with each other. A friendship that is happily renewed and strengthened during their simultaneous visits to Kent. But what happens when, after admitting his feelings of love and fervent admiration, Darcy’s trust and faith in Elizabeth is shaken? Is she a scheming fortune hunter? Is she in league with his enemies? Darcy’s convictions and misguided assumptions lead him to take drastic measures and perpetrates suffering and agony for all involved. How can this situation be mended? How indeed!
Sounds gripping, doesn’t it? I agree! I love the uniqueness of this premise and how Suzan Lauder constructed and developed this story. I honestly didn’t see the twist coming and I felt every bit of the emotional upheaval that the characters felt. I greatly enjoyed the focus on a set of different characters – it was interesting to see more of Mrs. Younge and learn about her past. And I also took pleasure in all the new characters Ms. Lauder created, such as the lively and forward-thinking Lady Edwina and the picture of perfection, Lady Amelia. (I especially adored Lady Edwina, but must admit I was sad we didn’t see her story’s conclusion happen on page.)
But the character I enjoyed and admired the most was our dear Elizabeth Bennet. I loved seeing Elizabeth’s warm friendship develop with both Georgiana and later Mr. Darcy. Her playful teasing and kindness was enchanting. And I emphatically approve of and admire her actions in Ramsgate, she proved herself a fiercely protective and loyal friend. Plus, it was so much fun to see her antagonize and thwart Wickham! Go Elizabeth!
However, I’m afraid I cannot say the same about Mr. Darcy. Of course we know Mr. Darcy has flaws of implacable resentment and haughty conceit, and I’m okay with him not always being likable. But I kind of started to feel bothered by his unreasonableness and slow understanding in this variation. Some of his actions/reactions felt less believable and it seemed he had to be hit over the head multiple times with the truth for full understanding to sink in and propel him into action. In addition, I also felt Mr. Wickham’s character and actions were a little questionable sometimes. Was he really that deluded? Did he never see Elizabeth as someone he should retaliate against?
Regardless of these small reservations, I found myself wonderfully enthralled by Ms. Lauder’s poignant and emotionally turbulent tale. Just like with Alias Thomas Bennet, I cannot help but praise Suzan Lauder’s originality, skillful prose, and meticulous attention to detail. I await in eager anticipation to see what she does next!