I’m delighted to again read another fantastic work by Rebecca Ann Collins. She is the critically acclaimed author of the bestselling 10 novel series, The Pemberley Chronicles. Her writing style is unparalleled in its depth and completion, and I’m always amazed at how detailed and engaging her novels are. After an incredibly rich 50 years worth of stories starring Lizzy and Darcy, we now turn our attention to Edward, Elinor, Marianne, and Col. Brandon as Collins begins to entice us with her versions of what happened after Jane laid down her pen in writing Sense and Sensibility.
Picking up seven years after the end of Sense and Sensibility, we are transported back into the world of the Dashwood sisters (now Mrs. Ferrars and Mrs. Brandon). Opening on a rather morbid note, we are taken to Barton Park for the funeral of Lady Middleton (Sir John’s wife) who unfortunately died of an apparent seizure during a dinner party for her mother’s (Mrs. Jennings) birthday. It’s during this unfortunate event we’re given updates as to where our favorite characters are: Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister, is now studying at a seminary near Oxford thanks to brother-in-law Edward’s assistance. Edward and Elinor live in the parsonage at Delaford, the estate of Col. Brandon and Marianne. Edward and Elinor are blessed with two children while the Brandons have none. After the funeral, Col. Brandon leaves to travel to see his property in Ireland, and it is in his absence that everyone’s worriment for Marianne begins. She has been the mistress of Delaford for seven years now, and is bored; bored with her day to day life, the lack of inspiration from her surroundings, and above all the lack of like minded people in her circle of friends. She takes a day trip with some acquaintances and surprisingly comes in contact with Willoughby. Will seeing him rekindle old feelings, or will she find strength in the love that Col. Brandon has for her? How will Elinor react when she finds that Willoughby has returned? What will become of Margret once she’s completed her education at the seminary?
One of Collins’ greatest attributes is her ability to channel the prose of Austen herself. Her style, while remaining Austen-like, is still unique, and all her own. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Collins is a true gem in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction. I’m always excited to read her novels as I know they’ll leave me feeling content and entertained to the highest degree. They have afforded many Jane Austen purists an escape back to the Victorian era and all its wonders. This time is exciting in particular because it’s the first time we get Collins’ perspective of the world of Sense and Sensibility. Her unique vision for the sister seemingly tranquil lives are never dull.
My one complaint was with Elinor’s character. She seemed filled with more anxiety then I ever remember. Yes, in the original she is worried about the family’s finances and about Marianne’s relationship with Willoughby, but she was not as bad as she is in Expectations of Happiness. She seems always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and poor Edward tries to comfort and console her as she cries her eyes out over almost everything. It seems that most of the other characters walk on eggshells around her in what they can and can’t tell her for fear of her nerves. This bothered me, because I read Elinor as a strong woman in Sense and Sensibility. She gets her family together, helps them stay economical, and is there for Marianne caring for her both on an emotional and physical level when she falls ill. Heck, she even kicks Willoughby out when he comes back in the end, trying to come back just one more time to see Marianne. This “new” Elinor seriously displeased me and left a bad taste in my mouth.
Despite this, I have to give Collins credit for her imagination in creating the characterization of Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister. As she is young and unknown to us in Austen’s original work, it was exciting to see her character take shape and become a strong, intelligent woman with thoughts on her future and what she wanted for it. I was quite pleased by this plot addition, and the depth that Margret added to the storyline was a great inclusion in an already great story.
So, it is with a happy heart that I conclude my review of Expectations of Happiness (no pun intended!) Collins has once again showed us that she is a master of Austen’s language and time, and can add postscripts to Austen’s works that dovetail seamlessly to the originals. Happiness was unique and exciting, and it fulfilled my curiosity as to the fate of Elinor and Marianne after their happy endings as told by Austen. Give it a try; I’m positive that you won’t be disappointed!
4 out of 5 Stars
Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Trade paperback (336) Pages
Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks © 2011. text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2011, Austenprose.com