Will Darcy be forced to honor an act of duty to his family in an effort to save the woman he loves from a cruel injustice?
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
The premise of this book seemed too intriguing to ignore. Mr. Collins is killed during his infamous visit to Longbourn. To the chagrin of the Bennet family, his death has occurred in the midst of his marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. Now, with a young clergyman found dead after keeping company with an unmarried gentlewoman, can Mr. Collins’ death be deemed an unfortunate accident or were there darker forces here at work?
With this tradgedy unfolding after the Netherfield Ball, the local residents, including the newly installed residents of Netherfield, find themselves serving as judge and jury to determine the fate of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. As Elizabeth repeatedly claims her innocence in Mr. Collins’ death, many of her long-time friends and some of her newly made acquaintances, respond by turning their backs on the Bennet family. This newly developed disregard for the Bennet family places them in unfamiliar terrain, as the entire Bennet family struggles to maintain their dignity and their good name within the local Meryton community.
After witnessing the ill treatment Elizabeth receives by her community, including a clergyman and even some family members, Darcy and Bingley decide they can no longer hide in the shadows as Jane and Elizabeth suffer in pain. Finding his voice, as a man of great character, who also recognizes his growing feelings for Elizabeth, Darcy comes to her defense and acts as her legal defender. Through his efforts to help Elizabeth, Darcy makes good strides towards clearing her good name, in regards to any wrongdoing towards Mr. Collins.
Just when the situation seems close to becoming bearable for the Bennet family, Lady Catherine appears to administer her own brand of justice. As Lady Catherine uses her considerable influence to intervene in the legal proceedings, things really start to become even more difficult for the Bennet family. Now, readers will learn what Darcy is willing to sacrifice in order to secure Elizabeth’s freedom, along with redeeming her reputation as a gentlewoman.
From here, the plot goes in several directions and the story’s focus felt quite scattered. It was almost like the author wanted to include too many elements of “Pride and Prejudice” in this story. In my opinion, the best JAFF variations often take a compelling part of “Pride and Prejudice” and use this as the basis of their story’s focus. I don’t need the Wickham/Lydia story line in every variation, unless it strengthens the overall story line. For me, in this variation, their story line only added more chaos and disorder to the plot, while serving to make this story longer than necessary.
I couldn’t believe Lydia would be this stupid in this story. I know she’s Lydia, and she can be careless and insensitive, but her sister’s life and freedom were at stake here, as well as her own future reputation. Would she really do and say the things she did in this book? Also, why was Mrs. Bennet such a fool after Elizabeth was brought into question regarding her role in the demise of Mr. Collins? Would a mother really act this way? I prefer to believe that Mrs. Bennet really loves Elizabeth and would be protective of her if she was ever found in this type of a situation.
Mr. Bennet was great in this story. His ability to stay focused and his determination to save his daughter felt genuine and heroic. He refused to give into the demands of the local society and stood his ground, just as a father should when faced with such dire circumstances. His love for Elizabeth was gratifying and reassuring. I also enjoyed the respectful relationships he shared with Bingley and Darcy.
Aunt Catherine’s behaviors towards her own daughter felt way too morose for me. I can buy that Lady Catherine is capable of many things, but her actions towards her own daughter just didn’t feel realistic at all to me. I was also uncomfortable with Anne’s reactions to her own mother’s actions. While there may not be much that Anne could do in retaliation, planning for Darcy’s future happiness seemed like a strange occupation for her, especially given her current circumstances. Also, the Earl and Countess of Matlock seemed way too willing to accept Elizabeth into their family, especially given the relative close nature of the scandal she was part of in Meryton.
The story has some very positive early reviews, which I believe speaks to the strength of the author’s writing style. She uses a well-balanced mix of dialogue, descriptive language and a steady amount of action to create a story that is romantic and engaging in several places.
Yet for me, the overall tone of the book and the circumstances the characters often found themselves in, felt overly dramatic and at some points, over the top, in relation to the events in this story. I can certainly suspend disbelief in an effort to enjoy a well-developed story, but in this story, I felt there were too many instances that required me to do this, and therefore I just couldn’t really enjoy the story as much as some other readers have stated they have when they read this story.
“Ruined Forever” is a “Pride and Prejudice” variation that was interesting and romantic in some places, but for me, too many of the characters felt out of place from Austen’s initial characterizations of them. The plot kept me engaged and I finished the book in a reasonable amount of time. However, I just couldn’t find a real emotional connection with the story to enjoy it to its fullest extent.