Rating : 4.5 stars out of 5
Can a second son find happiness in war and love?
Source: I received this book as an ARC, from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
Due to the growing amount of attention that Colonel Fitzwilliam has received throughout the past year throughout numerous JAFF books, particularly as a possible suitor for Elizabeth Bennet, JAFF readers have also come to request stories where Colonel Fitzwilliam receives a new love interest, free from any entanglements of the heart with Darcy and Elizabeth. For these readers, I believe Stan Hurd has delivered this request and more in his latest novel, “Colonel Fitzwilliam And The Countess of Sainte Toulours.”
After reading Mr. Hurd’s “Darcy’s Tale” series, I became a tremendous fan of Mr. Hurd’s approach to delivering JAFF that closely resembles Austen’s own writing style and tone, yet offers a male perspective that is typically absent from Austen’s own work. Austen never wrote scenes where two or more men were alone, as she herself never experienced these moments during her own lifetime. While I admire this decision, because I believe it allows Austen’s work to convey an accurate portrayal of the life and times she herself lived within, I find that Mr. Hurd’s work fleshes out for us intimate male voices and perspectives, from within Austen’s characters, which brings a new energy and another layer of depth of to Austen’s male characters.
In “Colonel Fitzwilliam And The Countess of Sainte Toulours,” we meet our characters from the “Darcy’s Tale” series about two years after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. We catch up with the relevant details of their new life together, as the story’s focus shifts to Colonel Fitzwilliam and a new acquaintance he has met through Elizabeth, named Miss Emily Chelwood.
After refusing his initial suit, Emily agrees to attend a night at the theatre, accompanied by Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Darcys. From here, the couple spend more and more of their time together, acknowledging the strength and depth of their feelings for each other, within a relatively short timeframe. Yet, the caveat is, Colonel Fitzwilliam must return in several days to France, on a military mission, to gather information regarding Napoleon’s plans during this time of relative peace. Promises are made and intentions are shared, as the couple part ways for the next several months.
Readers then set sail aboard the San Simon, where the Colonel meets his military partner, Señor Estéban de Esparza y las Cruces de Elizondo y Maturin, the courageous and cunning man, who is assigned to assist the Colonel throughout his military tasks. The two men travel through Spain and France, gathering intelligence, while meeting a variety of unusual characters, whose motives and allegiances are a mystery to the men. Through his anguish and loneliness, Colonel Fitzwilliam decides to communicate to Miss Chelwood, through letters he composes and sends to the Darcys, over this extended journey.
Through their travels in France, the two men eventually meet the Countess of Saint Toulours, who shares her harrowing story regarding her urgent need to flee from France and escape to England. Is this part of a trap, or can the Countess be considered an ally? With skeptical hearts and minds, the pair accompany her back to England, where they hope to discover her true intentions. Now, several months after his initial departure, Colonel Fitzwilliam returns to London and to his beloved Miss Chelwood.
From here, important events occur, affecting the Countess, the Colonel’s family, along with Emily’s own family. As Colonel Fitzwilliam continues to seek answers about the Countess and Napoleon’s military intentions, our characters are thrown into circumstances that bind their fates together in some rather unfortunate ways. Can our couple find their own path to happiness amongst the unforeseen tragedies of men and war?
Mr. Hurd’s writing shines as he accomplishes a variety of achievements within this novel. He has crafted a story of his very own, for our dear Colonel Fitzwilliam, based on the Colonel’s very own heart, mind and desires. Most of the characters that befriend the Colonel are well-developed and entertaining, offering readers a storyline for Colonel Fitzwilliam that stands independent of Darcy and Elizabeth, who truly are minor characters in this book. I believe when Mr. Hurd describes this book as a romance and as a war story, he has aptly described the parallels between the story’s multiple plotlines, which are consistent throughout the entire book.
Mr. Hurd also demonstrates his capable hand at capturing the tone of Austen’s time, through his proficient use of Regency English and the interesting historical details he incorporates throughout the book. As I read this book, my mind was pulled into a world from long ago, where I could envision the breathtaking European harbors and the bustling cities, which were central to the storyline. I created this very expansive Pinterest Board based on this book, because I found myself so drawn into the historical points shared in this story:
The one drawback for me, as I read this book, was the depth of my emotional pull towards the story’s central romance. While I enjoyed Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Chelwood’s relationship, for me, it lacked the amount of tension and romance that I enjoy in a JAFF book. I expected Darcy and Elizabeth to play very minor roles in this story, which I thought would dampen some of the story’s romantic tone. Yet, I would have preferred either more of a struggle towards a HEA for the Colonel and Emily, or more romantic interactions between the couple to solidify the intensity of their relationship.
With these points stated, I believe Stanley Hurd has demonstrated he can create an original and historically astute JAFF novel, based on a minor Austen character, that can be enjoyed by JAFF readers, as well as by readers who are also unfamiliar with JAFF, who are looking for an entertaining war romance set during the Napoleonic Wars. If Mr. Hurd decides to continue this book into a series, I would be glad to read it to learn how events unfold between our central couples…
Stanley Hurd has offered our Just Jane 1813 readers an opportunity to enter a giveaway for an ebook copy of “Colonel Fitzwilliam And The Countess of Sainte Toulours.” To enter this giveaway, please tell us about a JAFF book that you have enjoyed, based on a minor Austen character, or one that you plan on reading in the future. All comments should be submitted by November 19th. The giveaway winner will be announced on this blog on November 20th, 2015.
I would like to thank Stan Hurd for giving Colonel Fitzwilliam his own story, where he’s able to shine as a soldier, and, as a man in love. I also want to thank Stan for his generous giveaway and his Just Jane 1813 interview, which will be shared today on the blog in a separate post, which I know readers will love!