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How do the secrets and lies contained within the boundaries of war enable us to see the true beauty found inside of another person’s soul?
I received an eARC of this book from the author for a fair and honest review.
It was only a matter of time until Downton Abbey met Pride and Prejudice, and thankfully, under Ginger Monette’s skillful hand, this variation flourishes into a story filled with great intrigue, an engrossing romance, and a captivating setting, that is all cast within a WWI story that proved for me to be a real page-turner.
The prologue transports us into 1915, to Hertfordshire, England, where Elizabeth Bennet reluctantly agrees to share a dance with Captain Darcy, even though she’s spent part of the evening moping about the fact that Lieutenant Wickham has decided not to attend Netherfield hospital’s dedication ball. After the couple waltz to the song, “Let Me Call you Sweetheart,” they go their separate ways. Apparently, Elizabeth has more than one reason for her intense dislike of Captain Darcy.
Ten months later, in July of 1916, Captain Darcy is stationed at the Somme in France, where he’s fighting against the Germans, concerned about his sister Georgiana and his duties to Pemberley, while also suffering from a wounded heart as he reflects upon his poorly received marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, which took place several months earlier. Yet, Darcy’s heart isn’t the only thing in ruins. Back in England, Elizabeth has just returned home from college, where instead of pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor, she finds herself grappling with the brutal facts pertaining to her family, who have suffered great losses of their own. The Bennet family’s dire circumstances have also propelled Jane and Elizabeth to search for positions overseas as VAD nurse’s assistants.
Through a series of events, which also involve Lt. Wickham, Elizabeth eventually is offered a position as a private nursemaid to an elderly landed gentleman, whose Chateau has been commandeered by the British as a clearing station field hospital. Over time, Colonel Fitzwilliam transfers his cousin Darcy to an assignment at “The Ritz”, which is the nickname for the Chateau. There are suspicions surrounding several escaped prisoners, so Darcy is assigned to assess and take charge of the situation, in the hopes that he can uncover the identities of any traitors amongst them. As he finds himself once again spending more and more time in Elizabeth’s company, he is reminded of the one thing he cannot control; his deep and loyal feelings for Elizabeth Bennet.
Elizabeth endures her own struggles as well, including her changing ideas pertaining to her hopes and dreams for her own future. How can she be so certain in her dislike towards Darcy when she finds herself experiencing new feelings for him as other sides of his personality are slowly revealed to her? As they spend more time in each other’s company, it becomes evident that their friendship may be building into something even stronger. Naturally, their relationship is fraught with misunderstandings and plenty of romantic tension; will the horrors inflicted throughout this war on those near and dear to their hearts cause the greatest divide between them?
I loved that this story was still close enough to Austen’s time period, so that many of the issues surrounding war, class, and propriety felt nearly as compelling in this story as in Austen’s own books. Ginger Monette did a brilliant job weaving her research of this era into a story that read as part historical fiction, part romance, and part mystery. She also did a good job creating characters that readers will connect with while at the same time including a few of her own secondary characters that Austen lovers will happily recognize from other stories.
I really enjoyed her versions of Darcy and Elizabeth in this story. They are both proud, stubborn, and relatable characters who have a lot to learn and it was a pleasure to witness their personal growth and maturation. Setting their story within a wartime setting created a deep sense of urgency for the characters and left me extremely eager to read the final book in this series. This is one of the best alternate-era JAFF stories that I have read and I strongly encourage all JAFF readers to give this series a try!
The book does end with a cliffhanger and thankfully includes an excerpt from the final book in this series, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, which is scheduled to be released on January 1, 2017.
Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes
by Ginger Monette
A week later Elizabeth quickened her pace to the overlook, anxious to read the letter from Jane. She settled in her favourite spot, leaning against a sprawling oak with a magnificent view of the canal below. Lieutenant Bingley had been back in Boulogne for nearly a week, so surely there would be news.
Scanning the letter Elizabeth squealed in delight. A wedding—next week! And Jane begged that she come. So soon? Oh, but did Charles have to ask Darcy to stand up with him? Elizabeth grunted. Could she not go anywhere and be away from the man? Even the wedding date was chosen to coincide with the captain’s meeting in Boulogne to ensure his presence. Why in the world would Charles, who must have plenty of friends, pick sour-grapes Darcy?
Could The Yank be right? Could the captain’s time in the trenches and his losses at the Somme have profoundly affected him? She often heard horror stories of things soldiers had seen and experienced that left them numb. She huffed under her breath. Certainly that was not the case with Captain Darcy. He was stone cold by nature with an impenetrable heart—no—he told her once he loved her. And that first day she nursed him, he kindly consoled her about her mother and sister. There must be something beating in that broad chest of his. What difference did it make? She shook off the thoughts as she refolded Jane’s letter. Darcy had ruined her family, and she wanted nothing to do with him.
She raised her chin and gazed over the distant meadow. The morning sun shimmering off the water in canal below and the quaint windmill on the adjacent rise beckoned her. She had never ventured down the face of the bluff to the canal, but she had plenty of time today, and the May weather was glorious.
Inching her way down, she steadied herself on rocks and branches protruding here and there, nearly losing her balance on the loose embankment. Finally reaching the bottom, she started towards the waterway. Rounding a knoll, she squinted into the sun at a tall silhouette of a Tommy peering down the canal through field glasses. Whatever he saw must have been intriguing, as he surveyed the horizon for quite some time. Nearing him, she opened her mouth to call out a greeting when a stick snapped under her foot. In one deft motion, the soldier whirled around and levelled his revolver at her.
“Don’t shoot!” Elizabeth cried, pleading her hands in surrender. It was Captain Darcy.
“What are you doing here?” he barked, lowering the firearm and glaring at her with flashing eyes of steel.
Her heart pounding, she bit back, “Perhaps I could ask the same of you.”
“That is not the point.” He reached out and grabbed her arm above the elbow, nearly shaking it in rage. “A lady has no business out here alone. There are men roaming about who have no thought for their future and would be only too happy to ravage an attractive woman such as yourself.”
She jerked her arm away. “I appreciate your concern, but I am quite capable of looking after myself. But it’s nice to know you now consider me attractive as there was a time I wasn’t handsome enough to tempt you.”
His face hardened. “If you were this obstinate towards your father’s authority, it is no wonder he gave up on your sisters and retreated to his stud—”
His eyes widened in shocked contrition, and his manner softened. “Forgive me. That was uncalled for and unkind. Please…trust me in this.”
“Trust you? You are asking me to trust you? After your reprehensible treatment of Lieutenant Wickham and your calculated separation of Charles from Jane, I have no reason to trust you.”
Darcy clenched his fist. “Perhaps had you read my letter explaining myself, you might think differently.”
“Letter? What letter?”
“The one I sent to Longbourn from London after our…encounter at the Hunsford parsonage. It detailed my dealings with Wickham and your sister. I suppose you were too prejudiced against me to even open it.”
She opened her mouth, then shut it, dumbfounded. Was it possible he had an explanation? She stayed an extra two weeks with Charlotte after the captain’s departure, but surely had a letter arrived at Longbourn, it would have been left with her other correspondence. Wouldn’t it?
He released a defeated sigh and broke the silence. “Although I no longer adhere to my principle that my good opinion once lost is lost forever, I suppose I cannot fault you for abiding by it. Good day, Miss Bennet.” He turned on his heel and strode away.
Elizabeth stepped back, wilting as she released a breath. Why did every encounter with him leave her breathless and weak-kneed? The tension that radiated between them was unlike anything she’d experienced before. It was somehow entrancing—both repelling and tantalising at the same time.
She headed towards the chateau and shook off the thoughts, not wanting to think on it any more.
…it is no wonder your father gave up on your sisters and retreated… She winced at the grain of truth. But she wasn’t the obstinate one, her sisters were.
She hastened her pace, but his words crept through to her consciousness again. A lady has no business out here alone….
She huffed at his presumptuousness. What made him such an expert on everything? She’d never seen anyone out here except the children who played with her stuffed dog, an occasional wagon on the road, or Sapper and his men at the cemetery. Under the captain’s authority, she’d already surrendered the dowager house and the annexe. She had no intention of following his every whim as if he were an omniscient god.
Besides, what was he doing out here gazing down the canal? Didn’t he go to the ward at the school every day?
Ah, our dear couple, always plagued by distrust and misunderstandings. But indeed what was Darcy doing at the canal? And why didn’t Elizabeth receive his letter? You’ll have to read the story to find out : )
Meet Ginger Monette
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The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.
When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.
Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.
Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.
With Darcy’s Hope set during the era of Downton Abbey and the tour being right before Christmas, Ginger thought it would be fun to include Downton Abbey ornaments as the giveaway. Seven ornaments will be given away via Rafflecopter.
To enter this giveaway, go to the Rafflecopter link for your entry. Readers will receive additional entries for commenting on this blog and/or on Ginger’s FB page. The ornament giveaway is open to US residents in the continental US. The prize for residents of the continental UK is a Downton Abbey mug.
I want to thank Ginger Monette for inviting me to take part of her blog tour, and for her generous giveaways for my readers. With a sequel to “Darcy’s Hope” being released on January 1st, the New Year certainly holds the promise of another great read for JAFF lovers!