The plot line: Imagine, if you will, that the worst has happened: Mr Bennet has met his untimely demise and left his wife and five daughters with barely a farthing to their names. Mr Collins swoops in like a vulture almost immediately to claim his inheritance, thus obliging the Bennet ladies to choose between remaining at Longbourn under Mr Collins’ rather squirrelly protection, or to go out and support themselves. Elizabeth is determined not only to not be a burden to her family, but to materially aid them financially, and seeks a position as a governess. Via recommendations from such disparate sources as Charles Bingley and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she manages to get herself hired by Fitzwilliam Darcy as a companion to his sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy.
Despite the even greater discrepancy in their newly-formed relative social positions, Elizabeth and Darcy are drawn to each other and eventually fall in love. Through many situations, most of which find Elizabeth brandishing her rapier wit on the obliging Mr Darcy, they eventually overcome the obstacles that prevent them from marrying, and of course live happily ever after.
What I liked most: The humour. While I cannot say I liked Mr Bennet’s death, it really happened in the most appropriate manner. The “fish tickling” scene – where Darcy demonstrates that he is, after all, only human – was quite diverting, as was the romp in the park that nearly cost Elizabeth the position in the beginning. The clever banter between Elizabeth and Darcy, once they began to understand each other, was most amusing – a first-rate homage to Jane Austen’s wit. I also liked that the author tied up the loose ends at the end of the story, and granted happy endings to many of the characters, including some who do not come out so well in Austen’s original.
What I liked least: The dialogue was wonderful, and very much in the style of the period, which means there were a number of words and expressions with which I am not familiar. Their meanings could largely be extrapolated by context, and I was able to research several more. I would, however, have liked to see footnotes or a glossary of the more obscure words and expressions. I do like to learn new things, even when reading for pleasure, and very much appreciate when an author helps me do this! (Of course this will have no effect on those of you who are more familiar with all things Regency.)
In short: I liked the story and I like the author’s clever writing style. Not to mention that it hits all my own personal criteria: by the end of the story I must fall in love with Mr Darcy all over again, and Colonel Fitzwilliam must receive his due. (The Colonel did not play a very large role here, but his face time was essential to the story.) Recommended!
(I received a kindle-version author’s review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
The Excerpt: What would a review be without an excerpt?
The Harvest Dance at Pemberley
The harvest celebration was a success, the tenants pleased to see their master return to the traditions of his parents, including their generosity. Darcy enjoyed watching Elizabeth interact with his tenants in an unaffected, gracious manner and his sister taking her lead, seeming quite comfortable in her role as hostess. Of course, Georgie was acquainted with many of these people from earliest childhood and her familiarity with them along with their friendly informality put her at ease.
Caroline Bingley’s behavior, on the other hand, he found unpardonable. True, she had not grown up with the obligations he had known, nevertheless, her complaints disgusted him. At one point, she sidled up to him, to say behind her fan, “Ah! Mr. Darcy, you must be relieved to have done your duty by your tenants. What a lucky thing you are only required to open your house to them once a year. How insupportable to imagine passing many evenings in this manner—in such society. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise—the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all those people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!”
Darcy was forced to walk away lest he give her a rebuke she would not soon forget. The direction he took across the ballroom brought him next to Elizabeth, who had been deposited in a small settee while her dance partner—a young, unmarried farmer with a profitable holding and notable ambition—fetched her some punch.
“I believe you are enjoying yourself, Miss Bennet,” he said, attempting to make conversation. “You danced a great deal this evening.” She laughed, “Well that is the general idea at a ball. It would be rather extraordinary to read a book. You, however, have not danced a great deal. You reserved your dances for your sister and Miss Bingley.”
“I did not think you so observant of my movements, Miss Elizabeth. Do you disapprove? I am not fond of dancing, though, as host, I should make a better show of it.”
“I find that those who do not have a penchant for the dance, either by an inborn lack of rhythm or a simple lack of practice, do not like to dance. You dance well, Mr. Darcy, so what is your excuse?”
“Why, it is quite simple. I do not enjoy being gawked at by others. Young ladies may content themselves knowing they will one day be on the shelf and no longer the object of curiosity and gossip. I suppose I will not be granted the privilege until I marry, and, since no man of consequence would dare dance with his wife, there is little to gain in my exposing myself in such a manner beforehand.”
Elizabeth erupted in laughter. “I never heard it said that a lady looks forward to being an ape leader*. I think many—no most—women would find the idea preposterous. That you should envy their failure to procure a happy situation is also newsworthy, but I shan’t broadcast your proposition, for you would be made to look very foolish, and I have no wish for others to know what a stupid fellow you truly are.”
“Good Lord, Miss Elizabeth! Is there nothing you will not say to me?”
“Oh, fudge, you know I am not ridiculing you, though you quite deserve it for being so paper-skulled.” She did not back down.
He laughed at her refreshing candor. He saw an expression of relief cross her face and smiled again at her. “In retrospect, that was rather stupid of me. Few women can afford to remain unattached, and society generally disdains those who do, though I still believe there are those women, willing to forego some comfort to retain their independence. Maria Edgeworth comes to mind, and the other writer, who calls herself “A lady,” come to mind. I believe you might do so as well. Am I wrong?”
“I admire those women, who chose to pursue their talents outside the bonds of motherhood and marriage. To marry without affection is to sink very low in my opinion. When my father was alive, I must admit that I was arrogant about the matter. Now he is gone, and my family lives in such a precarious situation, I am forced to amend my opinion.” She paused briefly, then continued, “This topic is rather indecorous, even more so for being spoken of in a ballroom. Perhaps I forgot myself because I am peculiarly parched, and my partner ran away with my punch. Tell me, what you think of my alliteration?”
“Worthy wordplay! But, the fault is mine. He does not wish to interrupt our conversation.” Darcy caught the attention of a footman, signaled to him and, in only a few moments a tray was brought to them. Elizabeth indicated she would prefer lemonade and, when he handed her the goblet, she could not help but take a long drink. “Now you are refreshed, Miss Bennet, shall we take a turn about the room?”
“She is promised to me, Darcy. You must find yourself another partner!” Bingley said walking up to them. “Come, Miss Elizabeth, I believe they are playing a country reel. I do so love these lively dances.”
“There, Mr. Darcy, your friend came to your rescue, and you need not stand up with me. Lord knows, you do not deserve such punishment. Pray, excuse me.”
He followed her with his eyes, murmuring under his breath, “It would be no punishment to dance with you, Elizabeth.” Then he shook his head in wonderment. How did she dare speak to him in such a manner? Among his intimates, only Richard was brave enough to point out his shortcomings. Yet, she did not put up his back with her joking. She comprised a rare mixture of archness and sweetness that could not offend. In a most compelling and refreshing manner, her teasing forced him to reconsider long-held opinions and prejudices, and the moment ended with him appreciating the nimbleness of her mind and the needle wit she employed. In any event, his duties as host did not allow him the opportunity to dance with her and he ended the evening vaguely disgruntled about his lack of success, though he did not know why it bothered him.
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An added bonus: In addition to the excerpt above, you can read the first three chapters here.
The Giveaway: Sophia is offering an e-book copy of Miss Darcy’s Companion to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. To enter, just leave a comment (see link in the upper left adjacent to this post) before midnight October 13th. Winner will be announced here at Every Savage Can Dance on Friday, October 14th. Thank you for entering, and good luck!
An added giveaway: Sophia writes: “Thank you for purchasing Miss Darcy’s Companion. As a heartfelt thank you for buying it (or winning it) and a sincere apology for the cancellation of pre-order of the paperback version due to an amazon.com error, and the long delay from the stated release date, I have a secret giveaway available to those who sign up at the link provided at the end of the e-book.”
You can also purchase the e-book here.
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