Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
I’ll be honest, the minute I heard a new book by Joana Starnes was coming out I was immediately beset with eager anticipation. And it wasn’t the book description, premise, or shared excerpts that brought on my excitement. It was the fact that this story was written by Joana Starnes, an Austenesque author who has continuously impressed me with her heartfelt, emotionally turbulent, and expressively romantic stories. I’m afraid I went into this reading experience with nothing but high expectations. I’ve loved all I read by Joana Starnes and oftentimes feel it is impossible to choose which of her wonderfully-crafted stories is my favorite. (Now even more so!)
In this Pride and Prejudice variation Ms. Starnes places Darcy and Elizabeth in a situation we’ve seen sometimes before: Elizabeth accepts an offer of marriage from the “last man in the world” she could ever be “prevailed upon to marry.” The reason she accepted the arrogant Mr. Darcy’s proposal is because she just learned her father suffered an apoplectic fit and his survival is uncertain. To refuse what could be the salvation and protection of all her family would be unforgivably selfish and reckless. And so Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy to secure the future of her family. But she marries him without telling him of her unequal affections and without confronting him with her true opinion of his character. Not the best way to begin a marriage, wouldn’t you say?
And from there begins Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s journey – with a hasty marriage, misapprehended affections, hidden regrets, and an ever present fear for the fate of Mr. Bennet. Through these fragile and emotionally-wrought times Mr. Darcy shows himself to be Elizabeth’s champion and protector. She sees daily proof of his ardent love, compassion, and understanding, but since his pride and manners are unchecked and he still sometimes acts officiously and haughty. And since Elizabeth has yet to discover her husband’s true character, she sometimes continues to misjudge many of his actions. I could not help but fall in love with both characters during this story. Mr. Darcy won my heart with his tenderness and thoughtfulness, and I adored what he did with Mr. Collins and in Mr. Bennet’s study. And I thought Elizabeth acted admirably through these difficult and distressing series of events. I like that she tried to make the best of it all and put on a brave/optimistic face, yet at the same time had some moments where she would mourn the loss of her dreams and what could have been.
One of aspects I love most about this story – and to be honest, any story I read by Joana Starnes – is the emotional depth of her writing. Countless times Joana Starnes has shown herself to be a most eloquent wordsmith and a master at conveying complex emotions. We know she has a penchant for placing Darcy and Elizabeth in trying and torturous situations – something for which she has immeasurable talent! But where Ms. Starnes’s artistry really shines is the evocative language and poignant introspection she uses to describe what her characters are thinking and feeling. It is more than just words on a page, it is more than understanding the characters’ feelings and feeling sympathy for them – it is experiencing the emotions – the anguish, the despair, and the joy – firsthand. I can’t tell you how many times I reread paragraphs and pages in this story just to admire the prose and relive the emotional effect it produced.
Have I said enough to convince you to read this compelling and soul-stirring work by Joana Starnes? 😉 I really don’t want to spoil any of the surprises along the way, so I’m afraid to share any more details. But I will say that the rug was ripped out from beneath me, the complex emotions depicted in both characters were eminently sublime, and I completely adored the small but powerful parts she gave to various secondary characters. Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a most magnificent and praiseworthy work and I entreat you to read it immediately if you haven’t done so already!
Note: I’d recommend this story for Mature Audiences, there is one small intimate scene that takes place on page.