At last, at last. It’s arrived at last. Fans of Jan Hahn, author of An Arranged Marriage, winner of 2011 Best Indie Book award by Austenprose, have been all anticipation for the release of The Journey.
This Pride & Prejudice twist begins shortly after the Netherfield Ball. After Miss Elizabeth Bennet refuses the toady Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal, Elizabeth escapes her carping mother and journeys to London for a visit with her aunt and uncle Gardiner at Gracechurch street. Reluctantly she travels with Mr. Bingley’s conceited, boorish sisters and the aloof, prideful Mr. Darcy, when suddenly highwaymen halt their carriage. Nate Morgan, handsome outlaw and leader of this band of thieves, on impulse abducts Elizabeth for his own diversion. Chivalrously Darcy offers himself as pawn in her stead, however, this scheme falls short –and to everyone’s astonishment, Darcy proclaims Elizabeth his wife!
Under the charade as a married couple, Elizabeth and Darcy await their ransom, imprisoned together in a sparse room with ONE, scant blanket. Scandalous, indeed! Told in the first person narrative through Elizabeth’s eyes, their relationship must fast-forwarded ahead of the original Pride & Prejudice because of the forced, intimate circumstances endured for their very survival. After deprivation of restful sleep, days of duress in captivity and constant togetherness, Elizabeth does not know what she (or Darcy for that matter) is about. She knows of Darcy’s “arrogance, conceit, selfish disdain for the feelings of others,” his mistreatment of Wickham and his meddling with the happiness of her beloved Jane and Mr. Bingley… Add to her tumult of emotions, Elizabeth seems to be suffering a touch of Stockholm Syndrome (behavior of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors.) “‘Morgan rescued me. I am much obliged to him.’ ‘Obliged! To that criminal? I fear that your admiration of the highway’s appearance may have robbed you of your good sense! Or perhaps you relished the close embrace necessary for such transport.’ ‘Mr. Darcy, your suspicions are beyond annoyance. I pray you remember that you play the role of my husband, but in truth, I am not your wife.’” p. 54. And Morgan, skeptical of this marriage, is roguishly, fine. I confess, I might have been a little susceptible to his charms myself. A very little. “What I wouldn’t give to have met you a’fore Darcy did. If I’d wooed you, not even his riches would’ve proved tempting, for you would’ve know what ‘tis to be truly loved.” p. 59. On constant alert for possible escape, Darcy’s suspicions of Morgan with Elizabeth increase and can do little to hide his jealousy. And yet it’s Darcy’s constant wise, often tender manners during real peril that continue to plague Elizabeth’s heart. “Within moments of closing my eyes, I felt his hand gently lift my head, as he slipped his folded coat beneath it. ‘Allow me at least this trivial attempt at atonement for my previous blunders.’ I opened my mouth in protest, but he silenced me by lightly placing his fingers against my lips. ‘Just once, Miss Bennet, I pray you will favour me with a scarcity of your sharp tongue.’” p. 74.
However the abduction is only the first third of the novel. In London, Elizabeth’s reputation totters precariously on the edge of scandal and is dependent on the integrity of our champion– and even the rapscallion.
Austen’s Elizabeth, whom we all know and love, has always been spirited, clever, stubborn, and quick to misjudge, nevertheless also willing to acknowledge her blunders. In “The Journey” she not only realizes, “I am changed from the girl I was a week ago. The journey we were forced to endure has shown me the man’s true character, and I discovered the flaw in my own. I was deceived by my own prejudice.” p. 146, but her love for Darcy is so great, that she would rather forfeit her own satisfaction and honor to spare him from a marriage of expedience. I envy the mirth you will experience as she finally discovers what fools in love they have been!
Not only are there all the usual canon characters and their foibles, like Lydia’s disgrace with Wickham, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s loose lips, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s unabashed bossiness… but the earnest scope and humour make for a captivating read. In my experience, many Pride and Prejudice alternate stories fail to hit the mark when an author forces scenarios from the Austen’s original work into an entirely improbable story… which unfortunately does nothing but make the reader furrow brows in cynicism and incredulity. Dear friends, that is not the case here. Hahn’s retelling cleverly sprinkles many of Austen’s most memorable lines and scenes through out—sometimes out of canon sequence- but still recognizable and justifiable to make this particular tale quite plausible. I laughed out loud at the continued absurdity of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “But your arts and allurements may have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have used this kidnapping scheme to draw him in!” p. 161. Only Lady Cat could be so imperiously preposterous. Well maybe, Caroline Bingley… but I’ll ransom those gems for you to behold on your own!
Jan Hahn’s writing is top-notch, with vivid characters, lush story lines, and thorough research of the language and mores of Regency England. Using an economy of language while creating powerful and picturesque images, Hahn elegantly conveys Darcy and Elizabeth’s heart pounding passions while remaining respectful and not offending anyone’s sensibilities. I was excessively diverted whilst on “The Journey” and suspect you will be as well. Danger, daring and desire. How could you not?
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
The Journey, by Jan Hahn
Meryton Press (2011)
Trade paperback (264) pages
Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi. She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen. A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.
© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose