Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
OVERVIEW: There are two novellas in this collection: Of Fortune’s Reversal and The Maid and The Footman (which were both published separately). These two stories portray the same events from two different perspectives with four main characters being central to both stories – Kitty Bennet, General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam, a maid by the name Annie Reynolds, and a footman/retired Sergeant named Henry Wilson.
Of Fortune’s Reversal, which highlights the events from Kitty Bennet’s and General Fitzwilliam’s perspectives, is 91 pages in length. The Maid and The Footman, which feature Annie Reynolds’ and Henry Wilson’s experiences during the same events, is 191 pages in length.
Since there are two novella-ish length stories in this collection, I thought I’d break down my review to look at them both separately and as a whole.
OF FORTUNE’S REVERSAL
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
- The Premise: This Pride and Prejudice variation shows us what happens if Mr. Bennet passed away soon after the Meryton Assembly. Four years later introduces us to a more sober and accomplished Kitty Bennet, who attended seminary for two years and now works as a governess for an affluent family. However, Kitty’s life is about to drastically change when she happens to thwart a sinister scheme against the family she serves…
- My Thoughts: I always enjoy when the other Bennet sisters get a chance in the spotlight, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some improvements with dear Kitty. Kitty suffers a brutal attack and there is some comprehensive descriptions about the subsequent medical procedures she undergoes, which may effect some readers who are not used to seeing these occur in the Austenesque/JAFF genre. I appreciate the gritty realism illustrated with these events (although, I’m happy I don’t encounter it very often!). While I applaud and approve of a relationship between Kitty and General Fitzwilliam, I felt it was undeveloped and less plausible. In addition, I felt Kitty’s recovery was remarkably swift and easy. I would have loved more page time and details about the emotional journey’s both Kitty and Fitzwilliam made during these series of harrowing events.
THE MAID AND THE FOOTMAN
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
- The Premise: Annie is a newly promoted lady’s maid to Kitty and her charge, Miss Margaret, and Henry is a newly hired footman. After fighting for his country for six years, Henry has seen a good share of wretchedness and bloodshed, and would it appear that he still suffers from his experiences. Even though he feels his heart opening towards the kind and compassionate Annie Reynolds, Henry feels himself most unworthy of any sort of relationship with her…especially after what happened with Miss Bennet…
- My Thoughts: What engaging and interesting original characters! I enjoyed both Annie and Henry. They were wonderfully sweet together and both are such honorable, selfless, and likable individuals that you cannot help but have high admiration for them. I was happy to see there was a good bit more detail and drama in this story; which I guess shows that there is so much more going on “downstairs” or “off-screen” than you might expect. 😉 I was happy to see the events of these stories come to such a satisfying and successful conclusion.
I love the idea of a story showing us ‘two sides of the same coin,’ especially when each side is a distinct perspective. I did, however, wish that both stories felt more equal. With one being much longer and better developed, it felt like one story was the quick-notes version of events and the second its fleshed-out companion.
Fans of Don Jacobson will delight to see many of his trademarks in these stories – such as his inclusion of non-Austen fictional characters, hidden Easter eggs, and helpful footnotes. But there were a few details that didn’t seem quite right to me, like a governess having a lady’s maid, the estimated value (to 2016 USD) of Mr. Bennet’s estate, and the fact that (SPOILER ALERT!) everyone in both stories ends up becoming excessively wealthy.
Despite my quibbles, I would still recommend Lessers and Betters to admirers of Kitty Bennet and Richard Fitzwilliam and any readers that searching for unique stories that are rich with historical detail.