Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Have you ever felt that Mr. Collins ended up with the wrong character in Pride and Prejudice? He is attracted to Jane’s and Elizabeth’s beauty and Charlotte’s agreeable nature, but he completely overlooks plain Mary, who, with her preference of sermons, serious nature, and fondness for counseling others, would perhaps be the ideal candidate. I’ve always wondered if Mr. Collins ever thought of Mary Bennet, if he even noticed her. Did he see their compatibility and ignore it? In Jack Caldwell’s newest novel he explores what happens when Mr. Collin’s sees Mary and proposes to her instead of Elizabeth…
So how does Mary marrying Mr. Collins change the story for the other characters, you ask? Well, the Netherfield party still departs to London, but because her sister is soon to be married, Jane Bennet doesn’t venture there herself. She instead accompanies Elizabeth on a long visit to Hunsford Parsonage (that’s right, no Maria Lucas!). Where we learn that Mary and Anne de Bourgh don’t remain indifferent acquaintances with each other, but instead become fast friends.
What I loved most about this story was seeing all the positive results of Mr. Collins’s marriage to Mary! Mary’s development and improvement was wonderful to witness; she handles Mr. Collins masterfully and truly comes into her own. And now that the sisters are separated by a distance of “nearly fifty miles,” they seem to value each other more and their increased sisterly affection for each other was heartwarming to observe. In addition, I loved how Mary, while respectful and kind towards Lady Catherine, did not worship her with the same absolute veneration that her husband is prone to do and often steered him in a better direction than his “esteemed patroness.” Go Mary!
Mary’s maturity and development isn’t the only pleasing one to witness in this tale, Anne de Bourgh, while under the guidance and support of her new friend is finally becoming the woman she has always longed to be. Taking secret music lessons, driving carriages, interfering with her cousin’s relationship, trying to attract a certain suitor…I liked seeing Anne take a more active part in the plot!
While I loved the premise of this variation and enjoyed seeing the changes it wrought, I did often wish that the story deviated a little more. There were a lot of familiar scenes and similar conversations, and it seemed like Mary marrying Mr. Collins had more impact on Jane and Bingley then it did Darcy and Elizabeth. (Loved how Jane handled Mr. Bingley! Go Jane!) The course of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship seemed to be the same, even with the help of Darcy’s well-meaning cousins and Elizabeth’s matchmaking sister. I found myself enjoying the Jane/Bingley relationship in this story more than the Darcy/Elizabeth one, especially when Elizabeth makes a brazen and assumptive declaration to Mr. Darcy…(that just felt odd.)
Part of me wished this variation stayed with and focused on Mary, Anne, and Jane, but you can’t have a Pride and Prejudice variation without Darcy and Elizabeth!! Even though I was more partial to the secondary characters than the main ones, I found this inventive variation of Pride and Prejudice to be an entertaining and engaging read! I look forward to reading more from Mr. Caldwell in the future!