Will one man’s obsession lead to the fruition of another man’s darkest fears?
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Source: I received an ARC of this book for a fair and honest review.
Last December I had the pleasure of reading my first Jann Rowland “Pride and Prejudice” variation, “Cassandra,” which I really enjoyed. When he recently published his next book, I was looking forward to this story and I am pleased to state that this book did not disappoint me.
“Obsession” is a variation that takes place three years before the events of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” so many of the events we are familiar with surrounding Austen’s characters haven’t occurred in this story. Mr. Rowland includes many of the characters from canon, and it was fun to read a variation that combined Austen’s story with a more frightening and unique storyline than what is typically written in JAFF.
The story is also a rather bold move by Mr. Rowland, because he takes a rather dark and haunting concept, and weaves it into a “Pride and Prejudice” variation, without allowing the story to become outrageous or absurd. I enjoyed how he develops his characters to interact with each other, alongside his inclusion of his new character, the haunting Mr. Pearce.
This story opens up in Hertfordshire, where the Bennet ladies exist in their isolated world of local balls, neighborhood chatter and the never-ending search for eligible suitors. At an event in Meryton, Elizabeth catches the attention of an older man, named Mr. Pearce, who becomes determined over time to have her as his wife. Before long, his character is determined by Elizabeth to be condescending, arrogant and quite obstinate. After Elizabeth dismisses his efforts and voices her numerous reasons for refusing his marriage proposal, Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Pearce remain as determined as ever to see this marriage take place, and sooner rather than later.
This is where readers gain a sense of what could have been, had a suitor other than Mr. Collins desired Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, while plotting alongside Mrs. Bennet. Always one to disparage Elizabeth and to make certain that no offer of marriage “goes to waste,” Mrs. Bennet becomes nearly as determined as Mr. Pearce to have Elizabeth accept his proposal, and through her efforts, the residents of Longbourn all must endure her “suffering,” along with her endless and noisy battles with Elizabeth.
Over time, and with more intensity than in canon, Mrs. Bennet becomes nearly undone when Elizabeth can’t be forced to change her mind about Mr. Pearce. As he becomes subjected to the daily drama amongst the ladies and the constant wailings of Mrs. Bennet’s poor frayed nerves, Mr. Bennet makes a decision that changes the course of everyone’s lives; Elizabeth must leave Longbourn and go live in London with the Gardiner family so that the rest of the Bennet family can live in peace. To complete her “step-mother-style” treatment of Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet sends her off to live amongst London society with barely a piece of decent clothing…
Once Elizabeth arrives in London and settles into her new life, she’s forced to accept the consequences of her situation in an attempt to find an alternate path to her own happiness. Yet, week after week, letters arrive from Mrs. Bennet, with each correspondence communicating her demands to Elizabeth and letter after letter, Elizabeth grows more and more disillusioned about her future. Will her own mother inform Mr. Pearce that she’s living in Cheapside and cause more concerns for her future?
As events move forward, we also meet a young man in possession of a fortune, which was recently acquired from “trade,” named Mr. Charles Bingley. As Bingley looks to create a silent business partnership with Mr. Gardiner, he becomes better acquainted with Elizabeth. Will he pursue this Bennet sister through their future interactions with each other?
As Elizabeth becomes better situated in her new life, she finds her circumstances altered in an unimaginable way, when a mysterious gentleman discovers her as he overhears her speaking to her cousin. Has Mr. Pearce found her here in London or is there a new man longing to meet up with her again?
When Elizabeth eventually discovers that she is being pursued by more than one suitor, we get a sense that one suitor is already falling under the spell of her “arts and allurements,” while another suitor has become obsessed with her in a disturbing and frightening manner. Repulsed by one suitor, while she’s slowly intrigued by the other, Elizabeth finds herself facing a maze of traps and confinements that may eventually become her undoing. Will a good opinion that was never sought end in an obsession that has fatal consequences for our dear characters?
I’m going to leave you hanging here because I think this is the place where I believe you will enjoy uncovering the rest of this storyline for yourself. Yes, you will meet Darcy and yes, you will meet Wickham… There’s also plenty of Austen’s other characters from canon to enjoy here in this story. The only character portrayal I didn’t enjoy as much was Lady Catherine’s character. For me, she felt too different from canon to relate to, especially during her relationship in this book with Elizabeth.
However, most characters feel true to canon, and combined with Mr. Rowland’s original storyline, they make a rather enticing, and heart-warming read that will have you quickly turning the pages to see how this obsession comes to a conclusion in this story! Expect a gradual, tender romance to build here within a storyline that takes readers through quite a few exciting twists and turns.
I’m also including an interesting article I found on Pinterest, by a funny coincidence, on the same day that I finished this book. It ties in beautifully with Mr. Rowland’s satisfying epilogue in this story, so I suggest reading it after you finish this book.
Jann Rowland has offered our Just Jane 1813 readers an opportunity to enter a giveaway for an ebook copy of “Obsession.” To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment below this post by midnight ET on February 14th. The giveaway winner will be announced on this blog on February 15, 2016.
I want to thank Jann Rowland for his generous giveaway for our readers and for writing a variation that contained quite a bold new twist on “Pride and Prejudice.”
To add to your bookbag, visit Amazon.
This book is also available on Amazon on kindleunlimited.
To add to your bookshelf, visit Goodreads.