Can Two of England’s Most Eligible Bachelors Find “Suitable” Matches?
Series Rating: 4 stars out of 4
I read this series as three separate books this past summer, after I received the first book as an audiobook gift from the author. After listening to book one, I purchased and read the last two books in this series, as I was immediately drawn into this very creative “Pride and Prejudice” variation. Since P.O. Dixon has recently released these three books into one special 5 year anniversary edition, I am going to rate the series as one book, while breaking my review into three parts, so readers can avoid spoilers as they read this review, as well as the series.
“To Have His Cake (and Eat it Too)”
From the very beginning of this story, Elizabeth and her family find themselves in reduced circumstances, due to the untimely death of Mr. Bennet, forcing the Bennet sisters to find suitable work. Upon hearing of her situation, Mr. Darcy offers Elizabeth a position as Georgiana’s paid companion. Through this decision, Darcy remains convinced that this “arrangement” will keep Elizabeth close enough for his comfort, as he refuses to consider her as a suitable marriage partner. From this point forward, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves spending more and more time together at Pemberley. Thus, Darcy is able to “have his cake, and eat it too.” Through their new arrangement, Elizabeth and Georgiana, also quickly become close friends.
During his time away from Elizabeth, we learn more about Darcy’s feelings towards Elizabeth, as well as his relationship with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Together, the cousins share a relationship that is mainly built, at this point, on their rakish behaviors. When the two “gentlemen” are together, they act as indifferent suitors towards the young ladies of the ton, when they are required to be in their company. As an eligible bachelor, in need of an heir for Pemberley, Darcy finds himself in the hands of his matchmaking aunt, who intends to find Darcy a suitable wife. Yet, Darcy and his cousin, would rather spend their time pursuing other activities, which includes their time spent at a brothel, where Darcy keeps a “special” friend, intended to calm the storm in his heart.
However, as we can surmise, Darcy will not be able to resist making Elizabeth a more permanent part of his life, no matter what goes on at that brothel! Therefore, he is thrown into making a decision that he finds himself less than prepared to make regarding his future with Elizabeth. But does she share his intentions for her own future and how will she react, if she ever has knowledge pertaining to Darcy’s secret activities during his bachelorhood, which also tie her to his unseemly behaviors?
“What He Would Not Do” (Mr. Darcy’s Tale Continues)
This book continues Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, as we witness our newlyweds’ marriage, under the prying eyes of Darcy’s family and the ton. Just when we think they’ve overcome the obstacles that were central to their relationship, our dear couple finds themselves faced with new problems, many which are often inherent in “unequal” marriages. Meanwhile, there are secrets that still threaten their happiness, as their trust is thoroughly tested, once the revelations regarding Darcy’s past behaviors are revealed to Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth’s newly married sister, Jane, visits with the Darcys, Elizabeth finds herself in another difficult predicament. She discovers herself at odds with her newly married sister, Jane, and Darcy’s cousin, Richard. Elizabeth suspects that both of them aren’t telling her the whole truth about their new relationship. Can Elizabeth and Jane really enjoy a Season in Town, now that their stations in life are so very disparate?
The fun, for me, really took off when Lady Harriette Middleton’s story played a larger role in this book. Regardless of Darcy’s newly married state, Lady Harriette still has her heart set on gaining Darcy’s favors, and nothing can convince her to give another man a chance to win her heart. After reading “Pride and Prejudice,” we know how “useful” Aunt Catherine likes to be when she can help bring two people together. So, when Lady Harriette crafts a plan with Darcy’s aunt to help them both achieve their hearts’ desires, the outcome of their cunning plans had me laughing so hard… I couldn’t decide which I enjoyed more…Richard’s boldness or the shock Lady Harriette receives as an outcome of her flirtations with Darcy? Once Richard makes his dare to Lady Harriette, it’s fun to see how everything turns out with these two couples!
Lady Harriete (Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul)
This book takes up right where the second book leaves off, as we read the continuing love story between Richard and Lady Harriette. With that said, I should add that Lady Harriette has become one of my favorite new love interests for Colonel Fitwilliam. As a lady of significant social standing, Lady Harriette is very comfortable speaking her mind and pursuing her own interests. She’s pluckier than Elizabeth, and maybe a little too brash in her approach, but she’s an interesting character! Her friendship with Elizabeth is central to a few of the story lines, as the contrast in their personalities plays well in their friendship. Lady Harriette is a spirited woman, and while she isn’t as cruel as someone like Caroline Bingley, she certainly keeps this more “rakish” Richard on his toes, as they both find themselves in quite a few unexpected situations.
Now that the Darcys have a son, there seems to be more marital bliss within their lives. Their relationship is less contentious, yet there’s still a great secret lurking behind the calmness of their marriage, and it is this secret, along with its revelations, that kept my heart pounding, as I had my fingers crossed hoping for a certain outcome for our couple. I enjoyed in this series that, even with Elizabeth’s reduced circumstances at the beginning of this series, she always has the courage to stand up to Darcy and live her life on her own terms, as a wife, a mother, a sister and as a friend.
As Richard becomes a landowner through his marriage, he finds himself leaning on Darcy, as he requests Darcy’s support in the establishment and the management of his estate. Thus, we find Darcy spending more and more time away from Pemberley, leaving readers to wonder why, he still seems, at times, more drawn to spending time with Richard, than with his own wife and child.
There was plenty to grapple with throughout this last book for both couples, and my heart went out to both ladies during various places in this book. When an unforeseen connection is suspected between Darcy’s secret and his family’s future, I was torn about how I felt about this predicament… I think if Ms. Dixon decides to pursue a fourth book in this series, it will be quite an interesting story for the entire Fitzwilliam clan! I just hope she will be kind to my heart…
Altogether, I found these three books to be a unique variation for our characters. The portrayal of the “rakish” Fitzwilliam cousins was a brand new angle for me and Elizabeth’s reduced circumstances aren’t common in most of the JAFF stories I have read. I also enjoyed the focus on the Fitzwilliam clan, as a whole, combined with the addition of Lady Harriette Middleton, and her family, who serve as old friends of the Fitzwilliam family. Georgiana also receives her own storyline throughout the series.
I enjoyed the fast pace of this series’ multiple plots. P. O. Dixon’s writing is clear and concise, communicating with ease her characters’ actions and intentions. I thought the way she incorporated several lines from Shakespeare, along with Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,”was well done. There’s also a good amount of suspense and angst in this series, which I tend to embrace when I read JAFF books.
P.O. Dixon has offered our Just Jane 1813 readers an opportunity to enter a giveaway for an ebook copy of “Pride and Prejudice Untold”: Fifth Anniversary Commemorative Edition. To enter this giveaway, please tell us about one of your favorite JAFF series. All comments should be submitted by November 17th. The giveaway winner will be announced on this blog on November 18, 2015.
I want to thank P.O. Dixon for writing this JAFF variation that’s creative and a bit “rakish,” with the addition of one of my favorite new characters, Lady Harriette Middleton. I also want to thank her for her wonderful giveaway and her Just Jane 1813 interview post that will be shared today with our readers!