Buy on Amazon
Mr. Darcy is tempted beyond what he can endure when Elizabeth Bennet leaves her private journal entries in the parlour of Netherfield. Upon reading her writing, he is appalled to find that she overheard his unflattering remarks at the Meryton Assembly and despises him for his thoughtless comments. He wishes with all his heart that he could undo the damage.
During a restless sleep, he dreams of two powerful beings who can give him his heart's desire - Elizabeth's admiration, respect, and love.
Will he take the offer to change the past so that he never makes the offensive statement? Will he make a deal with the Devil, or is the price too dear?
How will Darcy’s relationship with Elizabeth be altered when his actions to gain a better understanding of Elizabeth Bennet, force him to face some hard truths about himself?
I don’t follow many JAFF stories as works-in-progress, but when I saw that Robin Helm was posting her latest story, Understanding Elizabeth, online, I couldn’t help giving it a try and before I knew it, I was looking forward to her updates each and every week. I often enjoy JAFF variations that are very close to canon, but that incorporate enough significant changes to help the story move into a new direction and in Understanding Elizabeth, that’s precisely what Robin Helm has done in her variation.
After his initial insult at the Meryton assembly, Mr. Darcy finds himself staying at Netherfield with the two eldest Bennet sisters, as Elizabeth seeks to nurse Jane back to her former good health. As Darcy spends time in Elizabeth’s presence, he finds himself barely able to resist his growing attraction for Elizabeth. When he has the opportunity to read her private thoughts in the form of her handwritten musings tucked within the pages of her book, he must decide if he will take advantage of this opportunity to further understand Elizabeth. When he uncovers her true feelings towards him, he is a bit taken aback, but on further reflection, he understands why she harbors these feelings for him.
When Jane’s illness becomes worse, and the Bennet sisters require an extended stay at Netherfield Park, Darcy has an opportunity to show a more flattering side of himself to Elizabeth, as well as to her family. Yet, as she lingers at Netherfield and grows friendlier towards him, Darcy grapples with his internal struggles. At night, his dreams invade his subconscious thoughts, offering him an easy solution to his dilemma. But is a deal with the Devil truly the way to obtaining his long-term happiness?
This is the kind of story that just pulled me in from the very beginning and had me smiling throughout the entire story. As the story is told through Darcy’s POV, we are able to understand and even empathize with his character. Being privy to his insights and inner dialogues made the story evoke a range of feelings within me. There were times I just chuckled at his rants, at other times, I was just smitten with his sweet and kind actions, and then at other times, I just shook my head as he dealt with the jealousy of having a rival for his affections.
Yes… I said a rival for Elizabeth’s affections, who winds up spending plenty of time with the Netherfield party and he causes Darcy plenty of anxiety. After all, Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter of a modest country gentleman; truly, she can have no genuine hopes of capturing a gentleman, such as Fitzwilliam Darcy, as her husband. With this in mind, Darcy’s rival becomes a true threat to his relationship with Elizabeth. With so many obstacles in his way to capturing Elizabeth’s heart, can Darcy find the right moves to bring them together, and after all of his strategizing, will he find himself the victim of his very own checkmate?
I really enjoyed the way Mrs. Helm developed Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship in a gentle, romantic, and realistic manner. As Darcy travels the path towards redeeming himself in Elizabeth’s eyes, he cleverly looks for ways to spend time with her and once he discovers her talents for playing chess, he finds a way to use this skill to get even closer to her. I loved reading their exchanges during these scenes, such as the one here:
Miss Elizabeth turned and walked to a table. She placed the chessboard upon it and picked up a piece of paper before returning to the door.
She held it out to Darcy, and he took it, reading it immediately. “Ah, e4, the Ruy Lopez opening move. Very complicated, but a good move for white.”
The lady arched an eyebrow. “Since you recognize the opening, I assume you have an answering move ready.”
“Of course.” He chuckled. “e5.”
She nodded. “The Sicilian defense. Usually very successful for black, if you know what you’re about.”
His confidence rose. Finally, I shall engage her in a pursuit at which I excel. I most decidedly know what I’m about when I play chess. It is in social situations that my performance is lacking. I shall appear to much better advantage in this than I did at the Assembly.
He smiled broadly. “I shall expect your next move in the morning.”
Mrs. Helm also does a lovely job weaving Mr. Bennet’s character into this story. Initially, Mr. Bennet is quite distrustful towards Darcy; after all, the man insulted his favorite daughter in a most callous manner. Yet, when he spends more time in the gentleman’s company, and among one of his closest friends, Mr. Bingley, he comes to see that Mr. Darcy is a difficult character to sketch, especially after exchanges like the one highlighted here:
“Papa, I was hoping you would bring a few books for me from Longbourn. I should like some new material to read as I sit with Jane, and I am optimistic that soon she shall be strong enough for me to read to her.”
Darcy looked up at the sound of her voice.
Well done, Miss Elizabeth. Though you may agree with your father, you realize the impropriety of his remarks and wish to redirect the conversation.
“My dear, I did give the idea some consideration,” he replied, turning back to her, “but I wished to look at Mr. Bingley’s library first. Now that I have seen it, I shall make a list. Tell me what you wish to read, and I can let you know whether or not the book is already here at Netherfield.”
Bingley laughed aloud. “You needn’t have waited to look at my poor library, Mr. Bennet. My friend Darcy has told me many times that it is woefully understocked.”
Darcy withered a bit under the sardonic gaze of Mr. Bennet.
Bingley, must you speak of me so freely? My advice to you was given privately, and then, only after you asked for my opinion of the estate.
Mr. Bennet chuckled. “Has he now? Did he tell you which books you should buy? Do you always seek his advice? Or does he freely give it without your asking?”
There are plenty of fun exchanges throughout the story, and through these exchanges and Darcy’s own inner dialogues, readers come to see a new side of Darcy as his relationship with Elizabeth evolves from one based on contempt, to friendship, and eventually, into one of a romantic nature. Yet, as in any well written JAFF story, the road to HEA doesn’t come too easily for our dear couple, and there are opportunities for their prejudices and misunderstandings to become permanent roadblocks for them.
Over time, Darcy not only comes to understand Elizabeth, but he also takes the time to truly understand himself as well, and it is only throughout this process of self-discovery that he can build the kind of understanding that he longs for with Elizabeth.
I’d like to thank Robin Helm for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review of this book.
Robin M. Helm is the author of a modern Christian fantasy fiction series, The Guardian Trilogy, which includes Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy. She has also published the Yours by Design series (Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours), a Regency/Modern Romance with a paranormal element.
Mrs. Helm shares a blog, Jane Started It, with the other writers of the Crown Hill Writers’ Guild and is one of the founders and administrators of BeyondAusten.com, a website for readers with common interests.
She has one husband, two married daughters, two lovely granddaughters, four family dogs, five part-time jobs, and seven published books.
The following link from Jane Started It has a post from Robin discussing the release of this book.
Visit Amazon to add this book to your bookshelf.
Check out Goodreads to see what your friends are saying about this story.
Robin Helm is offering a giveaway of an ebook of Understanding Elizabeth to one Just Jane 1813 reader. Please leave a comment on this blog no later than February 26th and the winner will be announced on this blog on February 27, 2017.
Thank you, Robin Helm, for sharing this delightful story with me and my readers!