Can Darcy and Elizabeth face the obstacles that stand between them as they reconsider the real barriers keeping them apart from each other?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Ivy May Stuart’s recently published debut JAFF novel has quickly earned some impressive reviews on Amazon, which peaked my curiosity as I browsed Amazon’s virtual bookshelves. Could these reviews be pointing the way to finding another promising JAFF writer?
My answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” In a novel that reads in a little under four hours, Ms. Stuart’s mark in the JAFF world with her new book is that she artfully describes the emotional arcs traveled by Darcy and Elizabeth throughout their own personal pilgrimages as they face their fears and doubts regarding a future relationship with one another with complete honesty combined with the astute wisdom of their close confidantes. Her story also contains that carefully crafted balance between inner and external angst, and she successfully maintains this balance until the very last pages of her story.
The story elements that are manipulated in this variation are subtle enough to feel realistic within the story’s plot and yet substantial enough to have quite a lasting impact on the characters’ lives. From the very beginning, we learn about Jane and Elizabeth’s concerns regarding her family’s embarrassing behaviors on the night of the ball at Netherfield. This conversation propels them to find a way to limit the foolish actions of their family, which eventually has an impact on several of the relationships within the Bennet household.
As the Gardiners become involved in assisting the Bennet family, Elizabeth eventually finds herself in London, where a chance meeting at Hatchards, London’s oldest bookshop, also sets in motion an unanticipated chain of events in her own life. Through Mr. Gardiner’s business association with Mr. Darcy, the Gardiners see Darcy as a worthy suitor for Elizabeth, yet Darcy and Elizabeth both remain unconvinced of this possibility. Throughout her stay, the violent Ratcliff Highway Murders are also taking place, causing many London residents to seek shelter within their country homes. This storyline eventually merges with our characters’ own lives and provides a nice element of mystery to this story.
Similar to canon, our characters meet up at Rosings Park, where some of the sweetest, and most memorable moments take place in this story. We are able to witness a few precious and unguarded moments between Darcy and Elizabeth as they both experience some new and unsettling feelings towards each other. Yet, when Lady Catherine misinterprets the effect that Elizabeth has on the gentlemen at Rosings Park, the story takes a turn in another direction.
Eventually, Darcy confronts Elizabeth with his own feelings and intentions towards her, but first she must determine if she is ready to face her own insecurities about marriage and intimacy. Most importantly, Elizabeth is forced to realize the emotional and financial circumstances of her own life, as she simultaneously faces the effects of her own parents’marriage, especially in regards to shaping her ideas about her own potential spouse.
Readers of Jane Austen are well aware of the severe financial constraints placed on women in this era, and Ms. Stuart delves a little deeper into exploring these realities through Elizabeth’s own life.
The departure from most “Pride and Prejudice” variations here is that we are able to closely examine Darcy and Elizabeth’s emotional pilgrimages in a way that feels very true to the original essence of Austen’s story. Ms. Stuart’s descriptions of the internal and external obstacles adds a finely rendered layer of depth to this story, which allows her readers to gain a very realistic and intimate understanding of Darcy and Elizabeth’s characters. The themes and struggles that she brings to light in her story are ones that I tossed around in my mind long after I finished this book.
The way she also created the roles of several of her supporting characters, such as Jane, Bingley and Aunt Gardiner in this story allowed them to play an even larger role in this story. Their efforts were pivotal in supporting Darcy and Elizabeth throughout their relationship. The honesty shared between these characters was refreshing and the advice they provided was both nurturing and constructive. I especially love when Charles Bingley is a man who comes to know his own mind and heart due to his affections for Jane Bennet and his unselfish nature.
This story also provided a close analysis of Elizabeth’s relationship with Mr. Bennet. I found this analysis to offer a very plausible and yet, somewhat bittersweet conclusion regarding the revisions in their relationship. I think Ms. Stuart’s theories and suggestions about their relationship were spot-on, especially when we think about the Bennet household and how this relationship was pivotal to the other relationships in the family.
Ivy May Stuart would like to offer my Just Jane 1813 readers an opportunity to win an ebook copy of this story. Please leave a comment on this post and by midnight ET on April 3rd. The winner of this giveaway will be announced on this blog on April 4, 2016.
I’d also like to thank Ivy May Stuart for writing a JAFF variation that allows readers to thoughtfully explore Darcy and Elizabeth’s emotional journeys. If you missed my interview with Ivy May Stuart, check it out on Just Jane 1813.
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