Today I have an article up over on Savvy Verse and Wit; come join me!)
Oddly enough, the word that comes to my mind about this book is charming. Why is that odd? Because the story, while delightful, was a little more complex that I usually associate with the word charming.
(picture links to Amazon UK)
Colonel Fitzwilliam should have been happy facing retirement. No more Napoleon, no more tromping the Continent, and his distant cousin had unexpectedly left him an estate. What was more, two of his favorite people, Darcy and Elizabeth, were travelling with him to visit his new home. But the colonel wasn’t happy, not when he was forced to watch Darcy exchanging enamored glances with his wife. No, he wanted to pitch his cousin out the window. It didn’t help when Darcy kept lecturing him on the joys of wedded life— as if women like Elizabeth Darcy grew on every tree.Then the snow started.
Now they were stranded at the home of George and Emma Knightley, another intolerable, blissfully wedded couple who wanted nothing more than to see his bachelor days come to an end. Thank heavens they never thought of matching him with the proud spinster who had also been caught in the storm. That would have been utterly intolerable. Or would it?
A Jane Austen-inspired sweet Regency romance.
First, the book felt like I was running into old friends. Here was Mr. Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Emma, and Mr. Knightly! All characters for whom I have inordinate fondness, and whom I like to think of in their future endeavors. But what’s this? Sir Walter Elliot and his over-proud daughter Elizabeth Elliot? They’re not favorites of mine; are they here for comic effect? A foil for the heroine? Wait! It seems that Elizabeth Elliot is to be the romantic protagonist! How can this be?
Quite well done, actually. Elizabeth Elliot is not the same woman she is at the beginning of Austen’s Persuasion. Her cousin’s defection and his making her former best friend his mistress has humbled her into the dust. Well, comparatively humbled her. The author doesn’t foolishly do a complete turnaround for Elizabeth. She is still a baronet’s daughter. She is still aware of her station. But now she is aware she is a spinster who has to practice economies. A woman abandoned by a suitor in favor a younger sister, and then had that suitor take the woman she was closest to as his lover. The humiliation is almost, but not quite, as bad as the pain of her friend’s betrayal.
Colonel Fitzwilliam is no longer the cocky free-spirited young man he was in Pride and Prejudice, either. He’s got what would later be known as shell-shock, or post traumatic stress disorder. He fought in the Napoleonic wars, and they were brutal. He’s embarrassed by his condition, because such things were thought of as personal failings in the Regency era. (There are still some idiots who think it is a personal failing nowadays, too – but we won’t speak of them.) He no longer feels like quite the catch he once was. He is now landed, and can marry without “some attention to money”, but what woman would have him? He has scars. He can no longer hunt because he cannot bear the sound of the guns. He thinks he is no longer suitable for a sweet young thing fresh on the marriage mart, but perhaps he would do for properly bred lady otherwise on the shelf?
The charming element of the book is the way the fall in love, wherein their flaws become assets to one another, and the reader is left with a decided satisfaction that Fitzwilliam and Miss Elliot achieve their happily ever after.
I really enjoyed this novella, and would recommend it to any Austen or Regency romance fan.