Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Pride and Prejudice Variation
TIME FRAME: Begins with Jane’s and Elizabeth’s stay at Netherfield
While escaping the confines of Netherfield for a walk, Elizabeth accidentally overhears Miss Bingley teasing Mr. Darcy about his admiration of Elizabeth’s “fine eyes” and supposed “marriage.” While Elizabeth doesn’t believe Mr. Darcy has any serious intentions towards her, she knows what kind of influence he has with Mr. Bingley and determines that it would be best for her to “play nice” with her sister’s suitor’s best friend…
WHAT I LOVED:
- The Inventive Premise: I really, really love the idea of this premise! I love how changing the timing of Elizabeth’s arrival in the shrubberies by just a few minutes, can drastically alter Elizabeth’s early preconceived notions of Mr. Darcy. Instead of trying to archly offend and disagree with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth tempers her impertinent ways and strive towards an agreeable (albeit not entirely earnest) amicability around Mr. Darcy. And when she meets Wickham she keeps her dislike of Mr. Darcy to herself. Which leads to him not revealing his sad-tale-of-woe and slandering Darcy’s name, but devising another scheme to seek his revenge. I really enjoyed exploring this scenario and the changes it created.
- Elizabeth in Love: As we might imagine, Elizabeth starts to see many of Darcy’s good qualities and her prejudice towards his character fades away. And although she may have convinced herself that Mr. Darcy’s admiration would never lead to a proposal, I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth feel unexpected despair when Darcy spontaneously leaves for London and appreciate his attentions and visits upon his return. I liked how Elizabeth tried to hold onto her dislike and disbelief, but in the end her heart had other plans…
- Compelling Secondary Characters: I really enjoyed the subtle ways Ms. Fairbanks gave personality and development to many secondary characters in this story. As much as I found her original creations – Lord Arlington and Lady Belinda – to be intriguing additions, I think I most enjoyed the changes made with Mary Bennet, Anne de Bourgh, and Caroline Bingley (I know, shocking, right?!?) Oftentimes these characters are portrayed in such an unfavorable and unflattering light, it was a pleasure to see them become more admirable and praiseworthy.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Luddite Revolts: I always find it fascinating to learn about real historical events that Jane Austen and her characters might have experienced and read about. While the Luddite revolts and factory riots were an interesting subplot of the story, its inclusion oftentimes felt disjointed. In this premise, it didn’t feel integral to the plot and it’s heavier focus at the end felt a little off-balance. In addition, I was surprised to see how these revolts and attacks on the mills seemed to concern Mr. Darcy much more than they did Mr. Bingley. I know that Mr. Darcy is the hero of this tale and a silent partner of the mills but it kind of felt odd that Mr. Bingly did not take a more active part in the planning, negotiations, and protection of his mills.
- Niggling Quibbles: I often felt confused by Mr. Darcy and his motives. One of his biggest sins in P&P is actively separating Jane and Bingley. In this story he is still accused of trying to do that. And yet we don’t see him actually do it or think about doing it. I would think he’d have a different feeling about Bingley’s situation given his relationship with Elizabeth. In addition, in some scenes Mr. Darcy acts very anti-marriage and vows to never marry, yet almost from the start of the book we observe him falling for Elizabeth and claiming he would overcome the obstacle of her inferior connections… It felt like he was a little bit inconsistent at times.
Regardless of my few quibbles, I still found much to enjoy in this sweet tale of blossoming love between Darcy and Elizabeth. Sufficient Encouragement is a wonderful choice for readers who delight in meeting new characters and seeing new twists! I am excited to see that a lot of the secondary characters will receive more attention in Book 2 of this series, Renewed Hope. (available now!)