Are we willing to overcome our prejudices and fears when faced with the prospect of finding true love?
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Over the summer, I had the pleasure of reading “Thursday’s Child,” by Pat Santarsiero. With its controversial plot and fine writing style, I found myself admiring Ms. Santarsiero’s work. When “The Last Waltz” was published, I knew it would be on my shorter TBR list.
“The Last Waltz” was a thoughtful, romantic and intriguing “Pride and Prejudice” variation that kept me turning the pages of this book quite late into the night. The story begins in 1806, where fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet meets a grieving Fitzwilliam Darcy and his young sister, Georgiana, as she is visiting London with her sister Jane and her Aunt Gardiner. As they attend the funeral mass for Mr. George Darcy of Pemberley, Elizabeth is struck by Darcy’s deep sorrow, and finds Fitzwilliam Darcy, the young heir to Pemberley, to be an amiable and courteous gentleman. As he leaves the church to attend to his new duties, Fitzwilliam is left with the memory of a fine pair of eyes, which belong to the young Ms. Elizabeth Bennet.
At the same time, a young George Wickham drinks his whiskey, while staging his future moves in his ongoing game of revenge against Fitzwilliam Darcy. Concerned for his own future now that his beloved godfather has passed, Wickham must set himself on a path towards his own promising future. Yet, what type of future can that possibly be for a man without the will or the skill to pursue his own valuable living?
However, life quickly takes a very sharp turn for the Bennet sisters, who find themselves the victims of a carriage accident on the streets of London. As the sisters are rescued from the scene, they are left to face their injuries. While one sister recovers quickly from her injuries, the other is left with a life-altering injury.
Five years later, we meet Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is a man greatly altered by the tragedies and deceptions he has endured in his young life. As he seeks to settle himself into his duties and responsibilities, we meet the young lady he is courting, Ms. Alyssa Marston. Though beautiful, lively and a suitable match for the young Mr. Darcy, he finds his heart unattached to Ms. Marston. This is mainly due to his earlier decision to avoid the perils and disappointments that are sometimes associated with allowing yourself to love someone else. So, it is with an unengaged heart, and his commitment as a gentleman, that Mr. Darcy joins his friend, Mr. Bingley, in Hertfordshire, to help him familiarize himself with the responsibilities associated with his newly leased estate, Netherfield.
Once in Hertfordshire, Mr. Darcy meets the two eldest Bennet sisters, and once again he finds himself attracted to Elizabeth. He sees her beauty as enchanting as ever, yet her soul seems quite altered. What could have occurred in the past five years to cause her to appear so distant and guarded?
Naturally, it’s not only Darcy who recognizes these changes in Elizabeth. These are changes that Mr. Bennet has been painfully aware of for the past several years. As Mr. Bennet is somewhat acquainted with Elizabeth’s earlier infatuation with Mr. Darcy, he seeks Darcy out to help him revive Elizabeth’s spirits, along with her former confidence. What Mr. Bennet could not predict is the turmoil that Darcy and Elizabeth will face as they find themselves dancing against a passionate storm of conflicting emotions that will set them upon a rocky path towards their own personal quests for love and acceptance.
Our pair meets up again in Kent, and here Darcy is primarily alone, due to a delay in the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam. This was one of my favorite parts in the story, as we are able to experience Darcy and Elizabeth during plenty of close interactions, without the story’s focus being placed on the other characters also here in Kent. It is somehow questionable how they are both able to escape the prying eyes of Aunt Catherine, as well as how two single people could meet alone they way that they did in Kent, but I found myself so interested in watching their relationship unfold, I was able to overlook these improprieties. When Colonel Fitzwilliam does finally arrive in Kent, his actions move the story into another new direction.
This romantic and heart-warming variation set into motion a dance between two reluctant lovers, who find themselves performing some very unfamiliar dance moves. Though the story has many plot elements that stayed true to canon, Ms. Santarsiero choreographed a “Pride and Prejudice” variation that offered numerous new twists and turns for our characters. While taking liberties with the story’s events, she stayed true to Austen’s characterizations of her characters, while at the same time, fleshing out some new characters that added to the overall enjoyment of this story.
The Wickham storyline was well written and engaging. I loved how Ms. Santarsiero handled his mischievous, deviant behaviors to not only place Darcy in danger, but to also create an alternate path for him that was gripping, energizing and plausible. I found Wickham to be cunning, deceitful and greedy, until the very bitter end of this story. Oh, how evil George Wickham he can be!
Ms. Marston was a well developed new character, who added a different perspective to this story. Her courtship with Darcy allowed us to experience Darcy from a different angle. Beautiful, clever, and hiding from her own family’s deep, dark secrets, Ms. Marston is a woman not to be trifled with, whether it’s with Elizabeth Bennet or another worthy foe. Perhaps what she cannot offer Fitzwilliam Darcy, she can offer to another willing person?
“The Last Waltz” is a beautifully written story, with a steadily paced plot, flawed and complex characters, who often live in that murky shade of gray we love to experience, combined with plenty of new dance moves. I loved the way the waltz was incorporated into the storyline, as not only an intimate and passionate experience between two people, but also as a culminating experience to a long-awaited dream. After reading this story, can one not hope for their own special waltz with Mr. Darcy?
Pat Santarsiero would love to offer our Just Jane 1813 readers the opportunity to win a copy of her book, “The Last Waltz.” For one reader, with a U. S. mailing address, she will offer a paperback or an ebook copy of “The Last Waltz,” and for a reader with an international mailing address, she will offer an ebook copy of “The Last Waltz.” To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment below on this post by midnight Eastern Time on January 4, 2016. The winners will be announced on this blog on January 5, 2016.
I want to thank Pat Santarsiero for not only her generous giveaways but also for writing a “Pride and Prejudice” variation that had numerous twists and turns that allowed our characters to enjoy a waltz they’ll remember for the rest of their lives!