Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Since her plans for a grand match for Charles fell through when he married Jane Bennet, Caroline Bingley turns to her other brother, Captain Robert Bingley, to achieve a brilliant marriage and fulfill the connections and elevation she feels the Bingley family needs (and deserves!) And she has just the girl in mind…her dear friend, Miss Helena Paget. Charming, beautiful, delicate, and witty – Helena Paget is an ideal choice, not to mention she is already besotted with Robert, besties with Caroline, and the niece of an earl! Up to her usual machinations, Caroline has decided Jane and Charles must invite Miss Paget to their small holiday gathering at Netherfield when Robert has two weeks leave from the army. It will be the perfect setting for him to court Miss Paget and eventually propose! What could go wrong…
Mary Bennet is very disappointed to hear that several strangers are joining their family party at Netherfield. She doesn’t feel comfortable around people she doesn’t know, and she is fully aware that she has “never mastered the art of social niceties.” Fortunately for Mary, she finds Miss Helena Paget to be very kind (not at all like Caroline, phew!) and Captain Bingley quite handsome. But it is immediately clear where Captain Bingley’s affections lie, so Mary knows that there is no prospect for her (or Kitty) in that quarter (which is fine, because marriage frightens her). But it looks like Mary’s heart has other ideas, and poor Mary suffers because she knows it cannot be…
Oh, yes. From the very first moment I read the back cover and discovered that we were meeting a new Bingley brother, my pleasure in this story was a sure thing! I love stories about secondary characters, and Mary Bennet is one of my favorites to see featured as a heroine. I love the dichotomy of her being introverted and shy, yet decided in her opinions and firm in her judgements. I thought it was absolutely lovely to observe Mary falling in love, yet finding herself in the very unhappy position of knowing it must be unrequited. She handles it all most admirably. In addition, I thought Helena Paget was a great new addition, and an ideal adversary for Mary because she is so flawless, beautiful, and everything Mary feels she is not.
However, Ms. Lawrence’s portrayal and thoughtful development of Mary Bennet isn’t the only thing I loved about this story. Far from it! I must admit, with his rugged handsomeness, honorable charity towards others, and kind demeanor I quite lost my heart to Captain Bingley! He is very much Charles’s brother with his friendliness and charm, but at the same time he isn’t one easily controlled and is more confident in his actions. I loved and admired Captain Bingley for his honorable actions involving a mistreated stable boy, and for how he noticed Mary Bennet and found so much to appreciate and applaud in her character. I always love it when a dashing hero understands and recognizes an unassuming heroine’s true worth.
Aside from Captain Bingley and Helena Paget, Ms. Lawrence created several more original characters for her tale – an unfortunate stable boy named Daniel Westover and the vicar of Meryton, Mr. Penrose. Both these characters effect some change and some turbulence within this story. Daniel is a delight and my heart warmed seeing his relationship with the Bennet sisters and Captain Bingley. In addition, I thought Mr. Penrose quite charming and masterful in his handling of some people… I hope this isn’t the last we see of him!
I am exceedingly pleased with this lovely, sensitive, and well-composed sequel to Pride and Prejudice! I love that Nancy Lawrence featured Mary Bennet, introduced stimulating new characters, and constructed a beautiful story of strength, inner beauty, compassion, and heart. I sincerely hope we see many more Austenesque novels from the pen of Nancy Lawrence!!! I highly recommend!