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Well-read, observant, and spirited, a young Elizabeth Bennet draws the attention of a wealthy widower.
When she finally meets Mr. Darcy, she outranks him. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from insulting her. Married and wealthy, is she still beneath his notice?
Elizabeth’s high society connections create new opportunities for her sisters and, in turn, keep Darcy close to her family. When tragedy strikes, will Darcy rise to the occasion? Or will his propensity to give offense show no respect for rank?
Happy Release Day for one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Adams! I am beyond excited to be part of launching this new book into the world!
I just ADORE when an author challenges him/herself with an approach in JAFF that is a bit risky and yet can still be developed into a delectable read! Elizabeth Adams set out to do just this in her newest release, On Equal Ground, and in the process, she has penned one of my favorite JAFF reads of 2017.
The prologue begins in 1807, with the story opening in 1809, a few years ahead of the 1813 publication date and the presumed timeline of Austen’s own Pride & Prejudice. The Bennet sisters are still quite young and as seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet heads to London with her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner for her “first proper London season,” she meets a Mr. Talbot along the way, who accepts a ride from them due to a broken axle on his carriage. Before long in London, a comfortable friendship develops the Gardiners and Mr.Talbot, who they eventually suspect is interested in their niece.
Yet, it turns out that Mr. Talbot is not exactly who he initially presented himself to be and he reveals his true identity to them as Robert Talbot, the Earl of Asheland. A little surprised with this information, their small group accepts an invitation to the theatre with him and as he and Elizabeth quietly discuss the play in an ongoing conversation shared only by them with Elizabeth’s hair ‘tickling his cheek and the light dancing off of her eyes,’ an even greater revelation is disclosed to the reader; ‘Robert Talbot, Sixth Earl of Asheland, thought he might be in a bit of trouble.’
From afar, it seems unlikely that anything of a truly intimate nature could occur between Lord Asheland and Elizabeth Bennet. After all, he is significantly older than her and has been the victim of some rather tragic events in his own personal life. However, he finds himself captivated by this beguiling young woman and soon ‘trouble’ turns to admiration and eventually grows into a proposal of marriage. With a whirlwind of events, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire becomes the Countess of Asheland; wife of an earl and a woman with an extremely generous marriage settlement. Lord Asheland is a thoughtful, kind, and generous husband indeed!
The pair settles into a very happy, and somewhat unconventional marriage as they pursue their shared happiness in all endeavors. Lord Asheland’s love and respect for Elizabeth induces him to provide financial security for Elizabeth’s sisters in a variety of ways, allowing Elizabeth to also hope her sisters will one day find the kind of happiness that she has also found in her own life, while also allowing Jane to spend time living with the couple.
When a letter arrives from Longbourn requesting Jane’s presence back at home and a visit from Elizabeth and the children, Mrs. Bennet finds an opportunity for Jane to meet the new neighbor, who is said to be amiable, young, and rich. This new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, turns out to be everything a young man should be, while his friend, Mr. Darcy, seems to offend others without any thought to his actions. Over time, Darcy finds himself in mixed company with Elizabeth and senses himself slowly drawn to her. He soon comes to realize that she is the standard by which he will select his own wife.
Time and time again, their lives become intermingled and the Talbots come to recognize Darcy as a friend. But fate is not always kind and in a sudden turn of events, Elizabeth finds herself facing the darkest moments in her life. As she drifts from one state of mind to another, her family and friends attempt to help her find a way to do more than merely exist. Will Darcy’s ardent admiration for her turn into something deeper for both of them or will she continue to keep her heart as guarded as ever?
If you are even a tiny bit hesitant to read this story, please trust me and take a big dive into this book because the characters and their relationships are so beautifully portrayed that you will find yourself connecting with them on a variety of levels. This story is so well-written and the meticulously developed story and character arcs in this book are the biggest reason that this storyline works so well for JAFF readers! I loved how Ms. Adams developed the relationship between Elizabeth and Lord Asheland and how she didn’t gloss over their relationship either. Beleive it or not, he easily became one of my all-time favorite new JAFF characters; he is really that likable!
There was also quite a bit of humor throughout the story, which I also loved. I really enjoyed seeing a new way to develop the Bennet sisters through the generosity of Elizabeth’s husband and I also like the way that Lord Asheland challenged Mr. Bennet to think about his roles and actions as a father because as a man who had so many great losses of his own, he could really put Mr. Bennet in his place for neglecting his daughters without being too disrespectful to him. From these storylines, we are able to enjoy the Bennets sisters in new ways.
I also loved the way Darcy was always in the background in the earlier sections of this story and how readers become privy to his slow-growing fascination of Elizabeth and how she was willfully misunderstanding him from pretty early on. The feelings and tension between them are similar to those from Pride and Prejudice, which always makes me enjoy a JAFF story even more. I loved the range of emotions that Darcy and Elizabeth experienced throughout the challenges they faced and how Darcy took charge of their situation because of his deep love and respect for Elizabeth. Ms. Adams’ dialogues are spot-on throughout the story too and feel so authentic, which is always a crucial aspect of enjoying a story for me and there were so many lines in this book that I highlighted just so I could easily find them to reread over and over. Elizabeth Adams has a knack for writing Darcy in a way that just makes me want to spend loads of time with in her stories!
On Equal Ground not only explores some new territory in JAFF, as Darcy and Elizabeth meet when they are both financially secure and well-connected people, it also brings a very different element to their relationship and allows readers to expand upon some very compelling themes that are worth exploring in any era. Ms. Adams has such a great way of developing Austen’s characters from canon and making readers deeply connect with her main and supporting characters. This is the kind of book that literally made me cry, (yes, you will need tissues!) that made me chuckle, (think of Mr. Bennet learning some well-needed lessons) and that made me experience all of those delicious “feels” in all of the right places. This is a book I will happily reread again and again and I think many other JAFF readers will too!
Meet Elizabeth Adams
Elizabeth Adams is a book-loving, tango-dancing, Austen enthusiast. She loves old houses and thinks birthdays should be celebrated with trips – as should most occasions. She can often be found by a sunny window with a cup of hot tea and a book in her hand.
She is the author of The Houseguest, Unwilling, Meryton Vignettes, and On Equal Ground. Green Card, a modern comedy, will be released in October of 2017.
Elizabeth Adams is offering a giveaway to one lucky Just Jane 1813 reader. To enter, please leave a comment on this blog no later than September 20 and the winner will be announced on this blog right after this date. A winner with a U.S. mailing address will receive an autographed copy of this book and international readers are eligible to win an eBook of On Equal Ground. Thank you, Ms. Adams, for your generous giveaway!