An Almost Perfect Variation on Pride and Prejudice
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Having read all of Abigail Reynold’s published works and since I am eagerly anticipating her next one, I consider myself an ardent fan of hers. What draws me to Ms. Reynold’s novels is her passionate and down-to-earth portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. In addition, I love the fact that she can essentially take our beloved Pride and Prejudice, steer it in a different direction, yet have it find its way back on course seamlessly and logically. There are four other books similar to this one that also take the original plot of Pride and Prejudice and ask the question “what if?” In this particular novel the “what if” question is: What if Mr. Darcy didn’t leave the inn at Lambton when Lizzy receives Jane’s missive about Lydia and Wickham? What if Lizzy, realizing she had grossly misjudged him, extended an olive branch to Darcy by thanking him for his hospitality and courteousness towards her and her relatives? What would happen next?
(One thing readers should be made aware of before reading a book by Abigail Reynolds is that her stories include intimate and romantic scenes, sometimes they can be rated R. In this book though, they are more PG-13.)
Ms. Reynolds approaches writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice reverently and tactfully. Some of her strengths are her knowledge of Pride and Prejudice and her creative variations. In addition, she is very successful in writing clever banters and amusing verbal exchanges. Examples of this can be found in a scene where Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy have a battle wit and wills. (One of my favorite scenes!)
The character portrayals in this novel are considerably accurate, Ms. Reynolds expands some characters and provides us with new insight, therefore they may seem slightly altered. Darcy is depicted as vulnerable and unsure of Elizabeth’s love for him, even after she accepts him. It is plausible that Darcy feels insecure because he was unceremoniously refused and was told he was “the last man in the world” she would ever want to marry. In addition, Lizzy is having a difficult time accepting the fact that Darcy would go through so many obstacles and defy his family because of his love for her.
One criticism I have about this variation is that some things were a little overdone. There are two things, in my opinion, that were a little excessive in this book: One is the many kissing scenes, it is wonderful to read about Darcy and Elizabeth in amorous embraces, however, they occurred a little too frequently and redundantly. Secondly, like I said earlier, Darcy is portrayed as vulnerable and insecure, but perhaps he was a little too insecure. It is believable that Darcy may need reassurances of Elizabeth’s love and feel jealousy towards Colonel Fitzwilliam, but Ms. Reynolds’ Mr. Darcy was beginning to look like he would never be secure or trust in Elizabeth’s love.
This novel is brief at about 140 pages, and though it may not contain many exciting occurrences or dramatic events, it does display an emotional and heartrending journey of Elizabeth and Darcy. Nevertheless, the reason this book received four stars instead of five was from me was because I felt Ms. Reynolds left out two important scenes and the book felt bereft without them. The first is the return of Wickham and Lydia to Longbourn. Did they go straight to Newcastle? The other, more important scene, is Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn. What would Elizabeth say to Lady Catherine’s insults and abusive comments now that the situation between her and Darcy is different?
I recommend this book to readers who don’t mind romantic and amorous scenes, are open-minded, and are interested in seeing Pride and Prejudice take a different path.