Will His Family Curse Change the Fate of Darcy & Elizabeth’s Lives?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
This was my first venture into reading a JAFF paranormal book, so I was very skeptical as I started to read this story. It was initially posted online at “A Happy Assembly,” but I did not read it as a work-in-progress. The reviews on Amazon drew my interest, with over 80% of them in the four and five star ranges. Once I read about a quarter of this book, my eyes were glued to this story, as I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, numerous plot twists and intense family dynamics that created a truly absorbing reading experience.
The plot of this book was intriguing and quite original.To his utter displeasure, Darcy has inherited a very old and tragic family curse, with no end or relief in sight for him. He is a shape-shifter, who becomes a jaguar during times of extreme tension and distress. If I have lost you at this point, please hold on, because Steph Nixon writes this story in a way that really captured my heart and mind!
The worst part of this curse is that every Darcy male that has been affected by this curse, has inflicted terrible pain upon his own family members. Therefore, with this knowledge at hand, Darcy is looking to end the curse by discontinuing the Darcy male line by avoiding marriage and subsequently, not having any children of his own. Yet, we know how the best laid plans can change!
Once Darcy is a guest at Netherfield, an unforeseen incident takes place, causing his plans to dramatically change. These changes affect numerous people and place him along a course he finds himself ill-prepared to navigate. Not only does he suffer a tense and difficult relationship with Elizabeth, but he now finds himself in a situation that has compromised Elizabeth. The resolution of this conflict is that the two of them now enter into a “forced” marriage. From here, the story really came alive for me as a reader!
With that said, I completely fell head over heels in love with this paranormal variation. There were so many aspects to this book that were handled in original ways for JAFF readers. First, Elizabeth’s family is not united in happiness about Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy and they make no secret about their feelings. The Gardiners here are not portrayed as the loving aunt and uncle who want to gain Darcy’s goodwill and develop a loving relationship with their new nephew. In contrast, they are suspicious, defensive and untrusting about his motives and actions throughout the book. I enjoyed these scenes because I admired Darcy’s confidence in the face of such difficulties and I felt that this situation eventually helped Darcy and Elizabeth forge a strong bond with each other, even though I could feel how difficult this situation was for Elizabeth.
Second, I really liked the way Wickham was incorporated into this story, along with a new villain, who also tries to come between Darcy and Elizabeth. These scenes were suspenseful and handled in way that kept my mind very engaged in the story, without feeling that this part of the plot was too over the top in its implementation. I am not the type of reader who has to have Wickham play a major role in a JAFF book, but I do enjoy when his character is crafted in a way that is dark and a bit mysterious.
Third, I thought the way the whole shape-shifting aspect of the story was handled was very engaging because Steph really made me as reader feel tremendous empathy for Darcy and his unique situation. She focused so much on his emotional struggle, that the shape-shifting aspect felt like more a part of Darcy’s personal struggles for love and acceptance, rather than using his curse to fulfill a desire for power and dominance. I also loved how those closest to him accepted who and what he was, while trying to help him find a way to create a life he could feel proud of with his loved ones.
Finally, I really believe as a new JAFF writer, Steph Nixon’s writing is splendid in so many ways throughout this book. The dialogue is well done and really helped me understand the characters from multiple perspectives. There are so many lovely moments shared between Darcy and Elizabeth, that we really feel that at times, we are seated in their carriage besides them, with our feet upon our own warm bricks, enjoying them share secrets and stories with each other that help them forge the trust and care required to create a marriage based on affection, respect and passion.
The plot was long and winding, with over 700 pages filled with a good deal of angst and obstacles, which I absolutely love in a well-written JAFF story. The relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth was meticulously crafted over a long period of time. As a reader, I felt as though I experienced a great emotional journey, especially as Darcy had to make, what was perhaps the most difficult decision of his life, trying to decide whether or not to break with family tradition and trust Elizabeth enough to share his haunting secret with her.
There are quite a few very mature adult scenes in this book, which I thought were tastefully done and added to the overall development of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship. I love when Darcy does not force Elizabeth into an intimate relationship and chooses to let her desires dictate the pace of their intimacy. These scenes also reflected how far Elizabeth had to travel within her own heart and mind to trust Darcy and feel comfortable with her own responses to their intimacy.
When I rated this book, I considered giving it less than a five star rating because there were times that I was distracted by Darcy’s extensive inner dialogue. We come to experience a great many of his inner feelings, physically and emotionally in the story. I do believe some pruning of that inner dialogue should’ve taken place during the editing process. Yet, I was really drawn into this book and found my overall reading experience was extremely positive. This book truly changed my initial bias towards this sub-genre and was a five star read for me.
I am thrilled to also share a prologue today from Ms. Nixon’s upcoming work, which she has loosely described as a “sequel” to this book. You can find this prologue and a rare interview with Steph, in a separate post on this blog today.