Will Darcy know how to proceed when lightening strikes twice in his life?
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
As I’ve been immersed in holiday JAFF reading and lots of blogging fun, I found myself intrigued by the earliest reviews of Jann Rowland’s latest book, “Cassandra.” This was the first book I have read by Jann Rowland and I am glad I gave this one a read. I think there’s quite a bit of discussion right now about this book because the storyline is one we don’t read a lot about in JAFF; Darcy has loved another and Elizabeth isn’t his only soul mate.
Now that you’ve absorbed the initial shock about this situation, I want to tell you that it’s okay to take a breath and continue reading my review. It was also difficult for me to imagine Darcy loving anyone other than Elizabeth, but I had placed my faith in Mr. Rowland to handle this plot (and my heart) with care, and I am pleased to tell you, he doesn’t disappoint us here in “Cassandra.” But now that you are aware of these points, you may be wondering why you would want to read this story. That’s what the rest of my review will talk about to you.
“Cassandra” is the story of a young, brief, and intense love, between Darcy and a lovely young woman, which is tragically lost, and the subsequent decisions that Darcy must make regarding his future, as well as the future of his family. Here, we share in his turbulent journey, which is told eloquently through his POV, as he faces making difficult choices concerning whether or not to allow love to re-enter his life, when he has already learned that loving someone can be the most heart-wrenching decision that a person can make. Now that he has lost his dearly beloved wife, what remains is their child, a young girl named Cassandra, who is the mirror-image of her deceased mother. At this place in time, Darcy finds himself in unfamiliar terrain. Burdened with crushing grief, and the constant guilt he feels when he looks into his daughter’s eyes, Darcy suffers as he retreats from society for a few lonely, tormented years. Most troubling, is that he’s cut himself off from his daughter, and there’s no way in sight of establishing a connection between them.
Eventually his dear friend and cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, convinces him to reenter society. On a cool and clear winter day, with Darcy and Georgiana in one coach, and Cassandra and her nurse following in another coach, the Darcy family journey to London to begin an early season in town. With the knowledge that his newly married friend, Charles Bingley, will also be in town, Darcy enters his London home filled with mixed emotions. Can he move forward with his life in a way that will meet his own needs and the needs of his loved ones?
For me, this was where the story really took off, as Darcy joins Bingley, Bingley’s wife and his wife’s sister, who is also living with the Bingleys in London, for dinner one evening. As Darcy enters the evening’s events with some trepidation, he already has preconceptions that Bingley’s new sister-in-law will meet him having her own expectations about wanting to secure a good marriage for herself. After enjoying a pleasant time at the Bigley’s home, and a rather intimate discussion with Bingley, (which happens to be one of my favorite portrayals of Bingley in JAFF) Darcy leaves with a newfound admiration for Bingley’s greatly improved self-confidence, as well as a certain regard for Bingley’s sister-in-law. From here, Darcy’s life takes an unimaginable turn into a future filled with numerous possibilities.
I found myself gripped by this storyline early into this book and I was wide awake late into the night, longing to see how this story would unfold. I loved having Darcy’s POV guide my understanding of his fragile emotions. At times, it felt so painful to read his thoughts, especially as he struggled to connect with his daughter Cassandra and forge a relationship with her. His disconnected feelings made me feel like I was watching him from afar, bending my head to hear his words and watch his movements, whenever Cassandra was in the room with him. One point of criticism here is the accuracy of the language development found in the dialogue written for a child Cassandra’s age. My knowledge and experience with children leads me to believe her spoken language should’ve been better developed than the spoken language she used in this story. This may have lead to some more engaging dialogue between Darcy and Cassandra, but I don’t think it took away from the overall storyline.
I really enjoyed feeling Darcy’s heart gradually thaw, as he slowly battled his desires for Elizabeth, along with the remembrances of his past love. Could he trust himself to move forward and live without the guarantee of a happy future? Can any of us have such a guarantee in our lives? Darcy comes to trust the wisdom and advice of his loved ones, as well as some of his respected acquaintances, who help him gain his emotional stamina through their candid and sometimes, unsolicited conversations.
The characters here are portrayed close to canon and their interactions are similar to those in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” The biggest difference in the development of these relationships is that Darcy meets Elizabeth and her family in London, not in Hertfordshire; therefore, his earliest impressions of the Bennet family are formed with the benefit of Darcy already having strong feelings of attachment for Elizabeth, when he does finally meet them. Some events from canon are also placed within this storyline, adding another element of familiarity for the reader, as we also meet Wickham and Lydia, under somewhat similar situations. I enjoyed the resolution to this storyline here, and especially Darcy’s handling of Wickham. It did make me feel a little sad though, for what could have turned out differently between these two former childhood friends.
Mr. Rowland does a good job crafting witty banter between Darcy and Elizabeth, that is dynamic and a bit flirtatious in nature. Their interactions display their growing respect and admiration for each other, which happens gradually over time and feels very natural in its development. Yet for me, the most enjoyable banter takes place between Elizabeth and Caroline Bingley. While Caroline certainly throws plenty of verbal barbs Elizabeth’s way, the manner in which Elizabeth disarms her with her own clever brand of rejoinders, brings amusement and levity to these interactions. As determined as ever, Caroline has her sights set for Darcy (and Pemberley) and she is relentless in her pursuit of him, showing up uninvited throughout many places in the story.
“Cassandra” is an original “Pride and Prejudice” variation, that is told through a storyline with a steady pace, memorable dialogue and a gradual building of emotions and resolutions for our characters. Mr. Rowland’s writing style captures parts of Austen’s tone and style. His epilogue takes us several years into his characters’ futures, where we are provided an overview of the events in the characters’ lives. The one place I felt the story was lacking was at the end of the story. As I came near the conclusion, I wanted to learn more about Darcy and Elizabeth’s new relationship and witness some type of final celebration where they would join together with each other. However, it should stand as a solid recommendation for this book, when my greatest criticism is that I wanted more time here with Darcy and Elizabeth!
Cassandra can be purchased on Amazon at the following link or downloaded as a kindleunlimited book: http://www.amazon.com/Cassandra-Jann-Rowland/dp/1987929349/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450065444&sr=8-1&keywords=cassandra+jann+rowland