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Action-packed variation with an interesting change of scenery - 3½ stars
on 14 July 2014
This is a Pride and Prejudice variation that picks up some weeks after the Hunsford proposal. Darcy is in London and he is miserable. He has come to the conclusion that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was correct to refuse his arrogant proposal. He is tortured by regretful thoughts, and the only way he can get a full night’s sleep is to drink heavily. He believes that he has hidden his excesses from Georgiana, but he is mistaken. She has called for reinforcements, and in a very touching scene, Colonel Fitzwilliam forces his confidence. The Colonel convinces Darcy to try a change of scenery to try and raise his spirits. Since a ceasefire has been called with France, Colonel Fitzwilliam and some friends are taking the opportunity to visit Paris, and he badgers Darcy into coming along.
While in Paris, Darcy is convinced to go to a ball. There he sees somebody familiar – Elizabeth has also travelled to Paris, in the company of the Gardiners, as Mr Gardiner has business in France. Darcy decides to make the best of this opportunity to try and change Elizabeth’s view of him. Elizabeth is sorry for her previous misjudgements of Darcy and is eager to be on good terms, but Darcy soon makes it clear to her that his feelings toward her haven’t changed. She is unsure over whether she would want to encourage him in this way. She feels attracted to him, but is unsure of whether she would want to be married to him, particularly as she is unsure of whether he is the proud man she met in Hertfordshire or the more charming and eager to please Darcy that she sees now.
The Gardiners had planned to move on from Paris within a few days of the time they encountered Darcy. Seeing such an eligible suitor showing interest in their niece they arrange to leave Elizabeth under the guardianship of the acquaintance that they have been staying with, just for a short time while they travel to another area for Mr Gardiner’s business. However, after they leave Darcy receives the news that the ceasefire is over. It is imperative for English people to leave France as soon as possible. Colonel Fitzwilliam wastes no time, as an army officer he would be all the more hated, and he leaves straight away with friends. Darcy goes to Elizabeth to offer to escort her out of Paris. They attempt to take a maid as chaperone, but due to the scarcity of carriages they are only able to obtain a small carriage which means the maid gets left behind. However, they are not able to escape France as quickly as they’d hoped because Elizabeth falls gravely ill. Once they are safely back on English soil Darcy and Elizabeth have some news for their families, but it is not the most opportune time to tell either family due to other events, and therefore the secret must be kept for longer, leading to some misinterpretations.
I was a little surprised with how quickly their courtship seemed to progress, but when I considered it, once Elizabeth had got over her misconceptions of Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice she actually falls in love with him fairly quickly. I really liked the idea of a new setting, and Darcy and Elizabeth’s escape from France was pretty exciting reading. My main quibble with this book was the secret keeping. To me, it didn’t make sense. It went on for too long, and it made things look much, much worse than they really were and was the catalyst for some quite unpleasant events that needn’t have occurred. But neither of them seemed to see this. I am sure that letting the truth out so late in the day would have caused quite a bit of talk, and made things seem more scandalous than they would have been if they’d told the truth from the outset. The secret wasn’t shameful, but in my opinion the omission would have made the truth less believable.
Also, as the story progressed the escape from France wasn’t their only adventure, and it stretched credibility more. It was fun reading, but pretty unlikely, and personally I prefer more believable variations, but if you like excitement there is plenty of it here!
Another thing I was a little unsure of was the portrayal of our starring couple. I know it’s a variation, so deviations from Pride & Prejudice’s characters can be part of the change, but neither of them felt quite right to me. For example, a few times Darcy lost his temper and immediately started shouting at people, which is something that seems out of character to me – to me, one of Darcy’s most notable characteristics is his self-control. Also, Lizzy reacted in quite a laid-back way at things which I think would have shocked a young lady of limited experience, which she was. I have been puzzling over what it was that was not hitting all the right notes for me, and I think it is that, for me, they behaved and reacted with a more modern mindset than I feel would have been likely. I think self-control is less valued now than in the past, so Darcy losing his temper and hollering didn’t seem classy enough for my view of him (it wouldn’t seem classy enough for my view of him now, but particularly in a historical variation). Similarly, a wider world view would work well for a modern woman, but I don’t see that somebody of Elizabeth’s class at that time would have had that. There were also some instances of language use that I found a bit incongruous, some American terms, sidewalks etc. However, this book has some excellent reviews so I’m obviously in the minority with my quibbles! It’s an action-packed variation with some lovely romance, particularly when Darcy first sets out to woo his lady.