Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Irresistable Temptation, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Willoughbys Return, by Jane Odiwe (2009)This is my final contribution to The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge 2011. Feeling nostalgic during the holidays, I resorted to an old chestnut in selection of my final read. I enjoyed Willoughby’s Return immeasurably when I first read it two years ago. After re-reading it again, I began to write my new review and quickly realized that I was just repeating what I had previously written – with the exception that my respect for Odiwe’s writing had increased in comparison to other Austenesque fiction that I had read since – so I increased my star rating from 4 to 5.

While the Jane Austen sequel industry abounds with numerous books inspired by Pride and Prejudice, regretfully there are very few sequels to Austen’s first published novel Sense and Sensibility. Why? Possibly because some readers have been disappointed with half of Austen’s unsatisfactory ending for her two heroines. While the two Dashwood sisters do marry: staid and stoic Elinor to Edward Ferrars and impulsive and free-spirited Marianne to Col. Brandon, the second pairings future happiness seemed doubtful. How could a young lady with Marianne’s intense passionate depth be happy with anyone other than her Byronic first love Mr. Willoughby – even after he threw her over for an heiress? Nagging questions arise. Did she settle when she married the Colonel? Would she be tempted into extramarital affairs and runaway with her lover? Possibly, leaving an intriguing premise for continuing the story.

All these concerns are addressed in Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation a new sequel to Sense and Sensibility by Jane Odiwe. How, or if they will be resolved to our satisfaction is now a possibility.

Three years after her marriage to Colonel Brandon, Marianne is the mistress of Delaford Park and the mother of a young son James. She has everything that a young married woman could desire: wealth, position, an heir and a loving husband, but her insecurities, jealousy and impetuous nature rob her of complete happiness. Resentful that her husband is frequently called away to attend his ward Eliza Williams and her infant daughter, Marianne “feels” that he cares for his other family more than his own. Their ties to the Brandon’s are strong and painful; Eliza being the daughter of Brandon’s first love who died tragically, and Eliza’s young child Lizzie the illegitimate daughter of John Willoughby the rogue who also threw over Marianne’s affections for an heiress five years prior. In addition, there is that imposing portrait of Eliza’s mother hanging in the Hall staring down at her. Every time Marianne passes it she sees the similarities of their appearances and doubts more and more if Brandon married her because he loved her, of if she is replacing the woman that he loved and lost years ago. When the charming rogue John Willoughby reappears in her life proclaiming he has never stopped loving her, the pain of their failed romance is renewed gradually replaced by conflicting emotions and the temptation to be with him again.

We are reintroduced to many of the characters from the original novel: Elinor Ferrars and her husband Edward, Mrs. Jennings, the Middleton’s, Lucy Ferrars and importantly Elinor and Marianne’s younger sister Margaret Dashwood who has her own romance in the course of the novel that may equal Marianne’s dilemma in emotion and drama. It could not be a Jane Austen sequel without talk of beaus, gowns and a glamorous Ball, so imagine everything most “profligate and shocking” in the way of young couples dancing and sitting down together! Margaret Dashwood supplies the shocking (to the horror of the neighborhood biddies) in her behavior by dancing more than three times in one night with one partner, Henry Lawrence, the charming and bold nephew of Col Brandon. Like Willoughby, Henry appears to be a good catch: attractive, well connected, an heir to a fortune and too irresistible. He wastes no time in pursuing Margaret’s affections. There is a surprise twist to their relationship that I will not reveal, but readers might recognize similarities to another Austen heroine.

Odiwe has captured Marianne’s spirit superbly. Romantic, impulsive and let’s face it, high maintenance! At times I really wanted to give her a firm dressing down and felt the same of Austen’s younger Marianne, so I knew that Odiwe had connected their characteristics seamlessly. Marianne may be five years older, but she’s still Marianne the drama queen and that makes for great entertainment! Interestingly, the two men in her life, Brandon and Willoughby, had fewer scenes than expected but caused many reactions to fuel the narrative serving their purpose. This was a nice mirror to women’s fate in Regency times. Men have all the power, women all the presence.

This is Odiwe’s second Austen sequel, and like Lydia Bennet’s Story she has chosen a character in Marianne Brandon that is ruled by impulse and emotion making for surprise and tension – all good elements to an engaging story that she delivers with confidence and aplomb. Developing younger sister Margaret Dashwood brought youth, vivacity and a bit of rebellion against social dictums to the story. Her romance with Henry Lawrence was an excellent choice as she shared the narrative equally with Marianne and balanced the story. Odiwe’s research and passion for the Regency era shine, especially in her descriptions of the country fair and fashions. It is rewarding to see her develop her own style evocative of Austen but totally modern in its sensibility. There were a few missteps with cadence and vernacular, but I am splitting hairs, and few will notice. Of course we are never in much doubt that it will all end happily, but unlike Jane Austen’s tale, the final transformation of the heroine’s troubling want of caution and choice of spouse will not prompt debate two hundred years later.

A light and enjoyable read, Willoughby’s Return is a charming tale that sweeps you back into Austen’s mannered world of a young girl searching for love and a married woman realizing it.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my twelfth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can read the archive of all of my reviews and those of the other participants reviews posted in the challenge review pages here. It has been great fun to visit Jane Austen’s first published novel and many of the film adpatations and books that it has inspired this year. 

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Willoughby’s Return, by Jane Odiwe by leaving a comment by midnight PT, Wednesday, January 4, 2012 stating if you are Team Willoughby or Team Brandon and why? Winner to be announced on Thursday, January 5, 2012. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

The deadline to enter the Grand Prize drawing of The Sense and Sensibility Reading Challenge 2011, which includes a copy of each of the twelve items that I reviewed for the challenge in a Jane Austen tote bag from The Republic of Pemberley Shoppe will be midnight PT, January 4, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, January 5th, 2012. All of the participants in the challenge and the commenters in their review posts in the event are eligible.  Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!

Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation, by Jane Odiwe
Sourcebooks Landmark, Naperville, IL (2009)
Trade paperback (345) pages
ISBN: 978-1402222672

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

33 thoughts on “Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Irresistable Temptation, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Add yours

  1. I am Team Brandon. Although I feel that Willoughby loved Marrianne, Brandon seemed to have been there through thick and thin, the love that progressed was unshakable. Brandon seemed to be more loyal and noble than Willoughby. I love this story and love how Brandon was a character some what in the background, but became the “hero” in sense and sensibility. So with that said, Team Brandon!!


  2. Another book I’d absolutely love to get my paws on! I personally have always preferred Col. Brandon’s calm, steady nature over Willoughby’s impulsive, arrogant one. I guess in that regard, I’m more an Elinor than a Marianne fan.
    So I hope that Brandon doesn’t suffer too much in this novel. ;)


  3. I am totally committed to Col. Brandon. To me, integrity and commitment are qualities that are of vital importance in the character of a person. By this yardstick, Brandon is light years ahead of Willoughby.


  4. I am definately Team Brandon! Although it would be wonderful to be Team Willoughby, I work with divorce lawyers and somehow I am certain I have seen that story end in disaster! But I so want to know what happens to Margaret!



  5. I’m firmly on Col Brandon’s team. The Colonel has lived a rather tragic and melancholy life up until he meets Marianne. I’m not at all fooled by his demeanor because I truly believe that beneath his bland exterior is a man full of quietly pent-up passion just waiting to unleash it all on the woman he loves! I think Marianne is in for the surprise of her life. (at least that is how the incurable romantic projects the future Col and Mrs Brandon)


  6. I have never thought that Marianne’s marriage to Brandon would suppress her passion. It is this very trait, like that of the first Eliza Williams, that attracts him to begin with.


  7. Team Brandon! Willoughby’s a scum….if he knew he was going to have to marry for money, then you don’t get a dalliance with an impressionable young girl.


  8. I’m team W, because what if what was reported about him was untrue?! He could have been a great guy, who might have flirted with Eliza, but that was it? Besides Brandon is WAY to old for Marianne…..


  9. But Katie, Brandon was stable and kind–he was there for Marianne when she needed him most. And he was only like 15-20 years older than her (and she was in her teens). So he wasn’t ancient!


  10. Team Brandon, definitely. Strong, steady, loyal, and reliable beats impulsive and flaky anyday, in my book. He was older, yes, but I think she would’ve brought out some liveliness and passion that he hadn’t been able to display before, and he would give her the freedom to be herself. He knows she’s a drama queen and loves her anyway.



  11. I enjoyed your review and I am one of those who was not entirely satisfied with the original’s ending.

    I am definitely Pro- Brandon. Actions always speak louder than words for me and in S&S his actions were that of a true lover. Whether he is for Marianne- that could lead to a different discussion.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!


  12. I have yet to read Willoughby’s Return but will do so in the new year. I’ve been so loyal to Marianne and Brandon that I didn’t want to read that a breach could happen there. I feel better about the direction this book will take now that I’ve read this blog post.


  13. Team Brandon. He loves her.

    Willoughby is selfish and self-serving, and any woman who loves him will come second to his own whims. I daresay he feels that he loves Marianne, and perhaps he does as far as he is capable, but he is too self-obsessed to really care about anyone but himself. Marianne is the “one that got away”. He doubtless consoles himself in his loveless marriage by convincing himself that with Marianne, all would have been different. However, the reality of living with her, and having to consider her wishes and needs would soon pall, especially if she became pregnant. What man with his selfish view of life would be happy to share the adoration?

    Plus, what about Mrs Willoughby? Is she dead or are they separated? If they are merely living apart, he can NEVER offer Marianne respectability. Even if he is a widower, leaving her husband for him will put her outside society and mean that she would never again see her child (because even if Willoughby encouraged her to bring little James with her, it would not be countenanced. Brandon would not part with his son and the law would not entertain giving Marianne access – these were times of almost absolute male power. And why should he part with his child, his precious heir? I don’t doubt that Brandon is a loving father and that alone would make him want to keep his son, but even if not, in Regency times the laws of succession were paramount, and fathers had full control of their children.

    If she left Brandon, Marianne would soon find that she was sipping from a poisoned chalice. The society and enjoyment she craves would not be forthcoming in an era when Willoughby might still be welcome in many houses, but she, as his “whore” would not. And Willoughby, too, would tire of her pretty quickly – not only because he would get invited to very few places where she could accompany him, but because she would inevitably become weepy, naggy and whiney, missing her child, the position and respect she used to enjoy as the wife of a leading landowner, and her sisters’ company, too. There is little likelihood that she would be able to keep up her relationship with them because her iniquity would quash any hopes that Margaret had of making a good marriage, and any ambitions Edward may have of progressing in the church. They would be forced to cut off all social intercourse wit her, no matter how painful it might be.

    No, Marianne – stay with Christopher Brandon. He may have noticed you because you resembled his first love, but he married you for yourself. Cherish his loyalty to his “other family” – this is the man he is. Would you love and respect him any better if he was prepared to let them rot in the gutter? A good man (or woman) is good, full stop – not just as and where it suits their purpose.


  14. I want to read this one!!! :) I’m totally Team Brandon — I’ve never fully understood the Willoughby addiction…he’s too smooth, ick! And Brandon’s soooo sweet!

    Thanks for the giveaway chance!


  15. Willoughby is such a slick, seducer;he’s the type you flirt with but lawd no, don’t marry! Brandon is constant, devoted — just because he doesn’t display his passion for all to gossip about, doesn’t mean its not there. In my mind, Marianne and the Colonel had a very loving and passionate marriage on into their dotage. Willoughby is the type who would only love you as long as you didn’t age, get fat or make him poor. Team Brandon. Still, this book sounds like an interesting twist.


  16. Team Brandon here. Somebody you can trust with your life than the bad boy Willoughby. Love to have a copy of this novel. Thanks!


  17. I am a Team Brandon fan. He respects others, does not use other people for his own purposes . He also, it seemed, at the same time does not forget his first love and he is there for others when they need someone the most.


  18. Definitely Team Brandon! He loved Marianne when there was no hope of her loving him. He was willing to help her even when she loved another. Willoughby, on the other hand, had Marianne’s love and not only threw it away, but did it in a manner that humiliated her and her family.

    This book looks great! I’d love to win a copy, but I’ll read it either way. :)


  19. I, too, am on the Team Brandon. Colonel Brandon truly loves Marianne; Willoughby loves only Willoughby. He is self-serving and deludes himself into believing that what he does is always altruistic; he can always explain away (to himself) his bad behavior. Colonel Brandon has true class and is basically a good person. So, of course, it is Team Brandon forever!!

    This book looks really good!


  20. I’m for Team Brandon. He’s not old and staid – he’s dashing and romantic: he tried to elope with his first love, he fought a duel, he falls in love with Marianne (at first sight!) for her music – he’s everything a romantic girl like Marianne needs!


  21. Definitely Team Brandon. I think there was a lot of passion in that man and he’s a romantic! He also was interested in the books, verses and piano that Marianne was interest in too which makes for a good marriage. Brandon would love Marianne no matter what, but I’m not so sure Willoughby would. Willoughby would always put himself first.


  22. I am Team Brandon. I think even if she wasn’t deeply in love with him at first, Austen says Marianne grows to love him as much as she did Willoughby, because she could never do anything in halves. Thanks for the giveaway!


  23. Team Brandon, for sure! I saw the movie as a teenager long before I read the book, and was so entranced by the depth of Alan Rickman’s performance. Admittedly, whenever I read the book now I picture Alan Rickman as Brandon. Who wouldn’t pick him?

    I was somewhat of a hopelessly romantic girl, and the older I get, the more I admire Brandon’s steadiness and strength of character. I hope I’m as lucky as Marianne is!


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