I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.
ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Bennet heir to Longbourn, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.
FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?
What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that do not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?
How many times do you have to marry the wrong person to get it right?
Darcy and Elizabeth are about to find out just how important an act of serendipity is in their own lives when Elizabeth tries to save her beloved sister from marrying the odious Mr. Collins and she accidentally marries Mr. Darcy instead. A lady can’t get any luckier than that, can she? Well, not exactly! The way that Elizabeth sees this mistake isn’t in a romantic light at all and before Darcy realizes the extent of the “gift” he has received in not marrying his cousin, Anne, Elizabeth has fled from the church in an attempt to escape her mistake.
Through his tenacious efforts, Mr. Darcy does reconnect with Elizabeth again and he refuses to sever ties with her until he can discover the legality of their union. Within this time, the pair has ample opportunities to learn more about each other and to contemplate how they will move forward if they are truly man and wife. Of course, they may choose to lead a life where they are married in name only, but as we know from canon they both come to desire a partner that they will also love for better or for worse. How will they decide to move forward from this disastrous situation?
For me, the strength of this story is that Mrs. Jeffers takes her time in developing her characters and storylines throughout this story, particularly in the way she writes the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. This is not “love at first sight,” although there certainly are some strong pangs of lust early on. This is a relationship that builds gradually over time from a chance meeting into a necessary bond, and then from trust and respect into love and companionship. The storylines don’t feel rushed and Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s characters are given enough time and space to evolve in a realistic manner. Through their shared experiences, such as meeting Georgiana and having Elizabeth get to know her, Darcy and Elizabeth learn what each value and need in their lives. When upon their initial meeting, Elizabeth can develop a friendship with a somewhat guarded Georgiana, Darcy’s esteem for her continues to grow:
“Nonsense,” she (Elizabeth) told his sister. “At Longbourn, there is always a sister to tend a bruised heart. It is the quickest means to a new resolve. As you possess no sister, permit me the role on this night. I promise you will not regret it. We will brush each other’s hair and send Hannah to the kitchen for tea and a small tray of Cook’s apple tarts. We will eat too much, laugh at our foibles, and be stronger because we did so together.”
I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this story as much as I did because of it’s unusual beginning, and yet, Regina Jeffers weaves this story in a way that makes it pretty easy for a JAFF reader to suspend enough disbelief to go along with this storyline. Before I knew it, I was happily engaged in a story that was adventurous, well-paced, and that contained just enough romantic tension to keep me hooked till the very last scene between Darcy and Elizabeth. It’s wonderful that such a prolific JAFF author can keep writing JAFF stories that are original in their execution and which contain plenty of witty dialogue and amusing scenarios between Darcy and Elizabeth!
It’s also humorous how Lady Catherine’s actions (or should I call it her ire?) serve to initially “force” Darcy and Elizabeth to remain together. It is his aunt’s threats which compel Darcy to find a way to keep Elizabeth close to him until he can figure this situation out for both of them, which had the added benefit of helping them become better acquainted with one another. It also allows them to figure out what that “electrical” pull is between them and to allow their initial attraction to grow into something much deeper over time.
On a final note, I really loved the book’s epilogue too. I just can’t seem to love a JAFF story without a proper epilogue and this book’s made my heart feel all that lovely tenderness that I enjoy at the end of a great JAFF story. Regina Jeffers, I don’t know how you come up with your story ideas, but I am so glad you work so hard to bring us such well-written and memorable JAFF stories!
You can also read an excerpt and guest post from this story here.
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