After Mr. Bennet experiences an accident, how will the Bennet family fare when Mr. Collins Sr. becomes the Master of Longbourn?
Rating 3.5 stars out of 5
This book is Aubrey Anderson’s debut novel into the JAFF sub-genre and I believe this book demonstrates her ability to write a story that is original, yet quite darker in tone than Austen’s book.
This story takes us back one year from the beginning of canon, where we meet Georgiana Darcy, who is alone with George Wickham, and under the care of Alma Younge when Fitzwilliam Darcy finds them. As Georgiana’s thoughts return to her younger years, we get glimpses of Wickham’s earlier relationships with the Darcy family.
The story then shifts to Meryton, where the residents of Longbourn are celebrating Jane Bennet’s birthday and a tragedy strikes the family. With Mr. Bennet existing in an uncertain state, his heir, James Thomas Collins, comes to Longbourn with his son, William Thomas Collins, to survey the situation and help the Bennet ladies through this difficult time. In a very short time, it becomes apparent that big changes are coming for the residents of Longbourn.
Several months later, events are brought to the start of Austen’s book, when Charlotte Lucas visits Longbourn to announce the arrival of Mr. Bingley. The Bennet ladies, who are accompanied by Mr. William Collins, meet Mr. Bingley and his guests at an assembly, where both parties become introduced to each other.
Elizabeth and Jane are quite different ladies from canon when they meet the gentleman, mainly because Mr. Collins has done his best to rule Longbourn with an iron fist. By the end of the evening, expectations aren’t raised for the ladies concerning any future relationships with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. After the assembly, Caroline Bingley gladly shares with everyone at Netherfield the rumors she has heard regarding the misfortunes suffered by the Bennet family and of the actions taken by Mr. Collins to make “great strides” in the improvement of the ladies’ behaviors.
From here, the story describes Elizabeth’s struggles to maintain her stability under the demands of Mr. Collins, along with her responsibilities to her family. She eventually develops a relationship with Darcy over time, as he desires to help her with her current situation at Longbourn while at the same time he harbors feelings of his own towards Elizabeth. Events go in another different when the Gardiners come back to Meryton and assess the current situation. However, by the conclusion of this story, there are still several questions remaining unanswered for the reader.
I really enjoyed the first half of this story because it was a dark and unique premise for a JAFF book, and it didn’t become over the top in its delivery, even though it dealt with a very difficult situation. The intensity was mainly built through the emotional experiences of the characters and it felt quite realistic for this time period and within the given circumstances. I also enjoyed the inclusion of James Thomas Collins’ character, as he brought to light another dimension of William Collins’ character and added quite a bit of angst to the story.
However, there were quite a few places in the storyline that felt unfinished in the second part of this story. I would have enjoyed learning more about the development of Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth and about his own family’s background within this story. I also felt there were parts in Elizabeth’s storyline at Longbourn that were unclear and that were too vague for the reader. I also felt the storyline ended too abruptly at the close of the book.
With all of this considered, I believe that Ms. Anderson came up with an interesting storyline that kept me engaged for most of the book. However, the gaps in the storyline and within the development of certain characters left me wishing parts of the story were better developed. I believe that as a new author, Ms. Anderson shows potential for developing a JAFF variation that was emotionally intense and that contained an original storyline.
Aubrey Anderson would like to offer one Just Jane 1813 reader an opportunity to win an ebook copy of this story. Please leave a comment on the post below to enter this giveaway by midnight ET on February 28. The winner will be announced on this blog on February 29, 2016.
I’d like to thank Ms. Anderson for her generous giveaway and for composing a “Pride and Prejudice” variation that told a unique story with a much darker tone.