Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Author
In her debut release, Caitlin Williams creates a Pride and Prejudice variation where Elizabeth and Darcy do not encounter each other again until four years after Darcy’s disastrous proposal in Hunsford Parsonage. Instead of touring the Peak District and visiting Lambton, Elizabeth and the Gardiners go to the Lake District as originally planned. And soon after her return from that trip, Elizabeth accepts an invitation to visit/semi-permanently live with Mr. Bennet’s sister, a Mrs. Mountford. Mrs. Mountford is a wealthy widow of good social standing who retains the ownership of her husband’s estate as they have no children or heirs. Mrs. Mountford becomes very fond of Elizabeth and the two travel to Bath together for an extended holiday.
Meanwhile, since Darcy doesn’t encounter Elizabeth at Pemberley, he never prompts Mr. Bingley to go back to Netherfield and never learns about Lydia’s attempted elopement. Instead, he eventually gives into his aunt’s pleadings and marries his cousin, Anne de Bourgh. But their married life together isn’t long as Darcy is a widower of one year at the start of this story.
What happens when Darcy and Elizabeth unexpectedly meet in Bath? Does Darcy still resent Elizabeth for her rejection of him? Does Elizabeth still think him proud and ill-mannered? Is there any attraction or admiration between them still? And what happens when there is another suitor who is intently pursuing Elizabeth?
A few months ago I read Caitlin Williams’s second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet and the story completely consumed me! It was no surprise that I found her first book, Ardently, to be just as mesmerizing! I adored the unique premise of this story! Both Darcy and Elizabeth have changed a good deal in four years. Their situations are different and they have grown in wisdom and maturity. Ms. Williams has a wonderful talent for creating plausible yet wonderfully inventive variations and I loved the combination of Darcy marrying Anne, Elizabeth having a wealthy relation, and both characters not seeing each other for an extended period of time! These twists and Ms. Williams’s compelling and emotional prose had me so engaged, I could not stop myself from almost reading the whole book in one sitting!
My favorite part of this tale is Ms. Williams’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy. I loved her portrayal of Elizabeth and all the other Pride and Prejudice characters, but her Darcy was my favorite. 🙂 I love it when Darcy needs to fight for Elizabeth, and I love it when he tries so hard to forget her and move on, yet fails. Darcy is everything that is honorable and adorable in this story. I loved seeing Elizabeth seek him out and learn to appreciate his good qualities. He was a quiet and ardent suitor, not one to put himself forward and pursue Elizabeth aggressively and possessively (like Mr. Yorke!). I laughed at the bit where he questioned Colonel Fitzwilliam about military tactics! So cute!
Other aspects of the story I enjoyed were the intriguing new characters – Mrs. Mountford and Mr. Yorke, the subtle nods to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the lovely trip to Bath, and seeing an alternative outcome for some of the Bennet sisters. The only aspect of the story I ended up not being too fond of was Caroline Bingley’s story-line. In the end it just didn’t feel plausible to me and things changed a little too abruptly for my taste.
Regardless of that one small quibble, I found Ardently to be a beautifully-written Pride and Prejudice variation full of yearning, tender devotion, and second chances. Definitely not one to miss, my friends! Ms. Williams’s writing has a magnetic pull and I adore her creative style and introspective tone.