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“Sir, I am not known to you. I fear you may have concerns regarding some intelligence that recently came to me from your sister…”
…a simple letter shatters illusions and turns the world upside down!
On holiday in Ramsgate, Elizabeth Bennet befriends shy, romantic Georgiana Darcy, who shares and adoring description of an ideal elder brother. When Georgiana discloses a secret infatuation with her brother’s “close friend” Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth’s altered perception of both men affects her actions and alliances.
The secret within an anonymous letter from Ramsgate ties Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together but also separates them. A second missive unlocks the disguise, but Mr. Darcy realizes his true passions too late to assist Elizabeth in her darkest hour. Will the shocking disclosure of a forgotten letter transform his understanding of her heart and lead them to embrace their future?
The setting of Suzan Lauder’s newest book, “Letter from Ramsgate,” made me especially curious to read this story because there’s so much unknown about Darcy’s and Georgiana’s time spent in Ramsgate, which leaves the doors wide open for authors to delve into this setting and explore new twists and turns for readers.
Jane Austen’s own feelings towards the seaside resort of Ramsgate remain somewhat unclear still today by those who are familiar with her own writings, but no one can deny that Ramsgate grew in popularity during her lifetime as people came to believe that the seaside was good for health problems, especially as spas began to lose their popularity for these purposes. Even Austen’s last novel, Sandition, which was unfinished at the time of her passing, was to take place at a seaside resort.
Therefore, readers who are looking to enjoy a story that rewinds itself a bit from the initial beginning of Pride and Prejudice will be eager to read Mrs. Lauder’s story, which opens itself up in May of 1811, when Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his initial decision to hire Mrs. Isabel Younge, a respectable widow, after he interviews her at his home in London. From this early scene, we can imagine how the wheels have been set into motion to provide Georgiana with a companion whose motives are not aligned with his own plans for his sister.
Enter Elizabeth Bennet, a few month later, during the month of August in 1811, where she is traveling in the place of her Uncle Gardiner, to accompany her aunt to Ramsgate. When she arrives in Ramsgate, she makes the immediate acquaintance of one of her aunt’s oldest friends, Lady Edwina. Through Lady’s Edwina’s connections, Elizabeth befriends Georgiana Darcy and her lady’s companion, Isabel Younge. In a short matter of time, Elizabeth learns that Georgiana is keeping a secret from her brother regarding a suspicious suitor, and Elizabeth finds herself struggling with how to support her new friend. Once she decides that she must take action, a chain of events are set into motion that will change all of their lives.
As Darcy works to save his sister, he is left wondering who intervened in time to inform him of Georgiana’s impulsive plans, which ultimately becomes fortuitous for his entire family. When he eventually meets Georgiana’s friend, it doesn’t take long for an attraction to grow between them. Yet, just when it looks like they may take the next big step to sharing a future together, Darcy’s trust in Elizabeth quickly evaporates when she tries to discuss a very personal and delicate matter with him. Misunderstandings threaten to cause a permanent divide between them, even when Elizabeth opens her heart to the only man she’s ever loved. Will Darcy’s pride create the ultimate barrier to their future together?
Suzan Lauder does a great job creating a story that’s original and explores a Pride and Prejudice variation from a new angle. I thought that most of the story was well-paced and I found myself really intrigued by the way she developed the main storyline, as well as the supporting storylines, such as Lydia’s and Wickham’s storyline. I enjoyed reading about Georgiana’s and Elizabeth’s friendship and how the friendship between both ladies developed into a close-knit bond from nearly the very start of their acquaintance.
However, this did alter Elizabeth’s first impression upon meeting Darcy, since she was able to learn about Darcy’s admirable qualities before she even met the actual man. This allowed Elizabeth to temper any negative first impressions of Darcy with Georgiana’s praise for her brother. This changed the dynamic of their relationship because there felt like there was less “prejudice” in Elizabeth’s feelings towards Darcy. As their relationship continued and they fell in love, Darcy remained very prideful and Elizabeth was a more forgiving person than I read her as in canon, so there was a bit of a disconnect for me regarding their relationship because it developed in this manner.
I found the supporting characters created by Mrs. Lauder to be a wonderful surprise in this story. First, we meet Lady Edwina, a wealthy, independent woman whose connections and informal mentoring serve to pave the way a bit for Elizabeth’s own way amongst polite society. She’s a very charming character to spend time with and her tongue-in-cheek comments added humor and playfulness to the story. She is the person who introduces Elizabeth to Georgiana and she continues to serve as a surrogate aunt to Elizabeth throughout the story.
Mrs. Younge’s role at Ramsgate is not only pivotal to the story, but one that receives very little exploration in Pride and Prejudice outside of Darcy’s POV. Mrs. Lauder does an outstanding job fleshing out her character and providing her with the complexity necessary to allow the reader to empathize with Mrs. Younge’s situation as a widow who once lived a much more lucrative lifestyle. As the story unfolds and Mrs. Younge’s character is revealed, it’s easy to see the shades of gray that are created by Mrs. Lauder to bring forth questions about who the real “enemy” was in this story; is it the individual people for their own actions or the rules and expectations of society at large that trapped women during this era into such limited options for their own livelihoods?
The details in this book shine too. I found the prose to be beautifully crafted and the twists on Austen’s own words that were threaded throughout within this story complemented Mrs. Lauder’s own writing abilities. This was an engrossing read and I look forward to reading more stories from this talented author!
A love for Jane Austen’s novels and Regency and Austenesque romance novels inspired Suzan Lauder to write her own variations, which led her to a passion for Regency era history and costuming, as well as social media book marketing. She cherishes the many friends she’s made as a result of these interests.
Suzan is a member of JASNA, VIRA, RWA (PAN and Beau Monde chapters), and is a registered professional engineer. She enjoys independent travel, design, Pilates, yoga, cycling, sustainability, upcycling, architecture, beta editing, and blogging. Most of the time, a Vancouver Island penthouse loft condominium with a view of the Salish Sea is home. For a few months each winter, Mr. Suze and their two rescue cats accompany her to their tiny Spanish colonial casita in Centro Historico of an industrial city in Mexico.
Letter from Ramsgate is Lauder’s second published novel and comes on the heels of her successful upcycled costuming blog series, the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment. Her latest venture is blogging about her learning experiences while editing Letter from Ramsgate. Suzan’s first novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, is an Austen-inspired Regency romance with a mystery twist. She also contributed a short modern romance, Delivery Boy, to the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter. All Lauder’s published fiction is based on Pride and Prejudice and is available from Meryton Press.
Connect with Suzan Lauder at the following places:
Suzan’s Goodreads Author Page
Suzan’s Facebook Page
Suzan’s Amazon Author Page
Today is Suzan Lauder’s birthday and I’d like to offer an ebook giveaway of “Letter From Ramsgate,” as my way of saying “Happy Birthday” to her. To enter this giveaway, please join me in wishing Suzan a happy birthday by commenting on this post no later than midnight, ET, on December 28. The winner will be announced on this blog on December 29, 2016.
I also had the honor of being part of the Meryton Press Tour for this book and you can read the exclusive vignette that Suzan wrote for Just Jane 1813. Janet Taylor did a lovely job with this tour, and I highly recommend reading the posts as a nice complement to this story.
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