In a sea of Darcy, Darcy, Darcy, I regret to admit that I may have over-indulged this winter and now suffer from post-Pride and Prejudice fan fiction fatigue. While perusing a generous stack of novels sent to me from our blog mistress, Laurel Ann, I was delighted to discover a follow-up story to Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Persuasion, entitled Mercy’s Embrace, So Rough A Course, Book 1 by debut author Laura Hile. I was instantly intrigued, as I have always wanted to know what happened next to these Austen’s heroes, Captain Frederick Wentworth and his wife Anne – only to realize that this wasn’t their story at all – but that of Elizabeth Elliot. Elizabeth Elliot?! Anne’s pretentious, vain, selfish, and thoughtless older sister? What? No one likes her my subconscious whined. Jane Austen gave her no redeeming qualities. She’s awful. So I put it back in the stack and read something else. What-what? (Bear with me… I’m getting to it.) Weeks later, after working my way through the stack, I came upon Hile’s book again, and with reluctance, gave myself up to chance.
And lucky I did, too. Yes, we all know Austen’s Elizabeth Elliot to be despicable, unkind and a grasping social snob, but Hile’s Elizabeth, although still all of that, shows us inside Elizabeth’s mind and why she comports herself as she does. I hate to excuse anyone’s bad behavior but in knowing her better, her disposition is better understood.
The novel opens shortly before Anne is to wed Captain Wentworth, and we learn that Sir Walter Elliot’s finances are as dire as ever. The beautiful yet dissatisfied Miss Elliot must manage her feckless, frivolous father whilst attempting to make a most auspicious match for herself. Even her companion Mrs. Clay has run off to Lord knows where… In no time at all, I found myself cheering for this dauntless woman and even laughing out loud at her own snarky sense of humour. “Mary’s letter must be sent first, before others and by express. If only she could manage to inform her through more reliable means! It would be very like Mary to pretend she hadn’t received a word and come to Bath anyway. Life without a companion might be dull, but a fortnight’s visit from Mary would be intolerable!” p. 45.
Hiding from his creditors under the guise of illness, Sir Walter Elliot forces Elizabeth to shift for herself. She moves in with the newly married Wentworths and as she struggles with her less than desirable situation, plots how to distinguish herself again amongst society’s elite. Unfortunately, suitable prospects on the marriage mart are meager at best for a woman of Elizabeth’s standards and wants. “A man needs three qualities in order to be considered a matrimonial prize, Mr. Gill. Good breeding, good looks and a good income. And he should not be too old. My father and I disagree on that last point.” p. 137. While entertaining the usual prospects, including the newly divorced but obscenely moneyed and well-connected Mr. Rushworth, (yes, THAT same Mr. Rushworth from Austen’s Mansfield Park!), Elizabeth meets the virile, rich, eligible, and self-satisfied Admiral Patrick McGillvary from a noble Irish family. Although he does not fail to turn her head, it must be noted he comes with the most unseemly reputation. As she has Rushworth dangling on the hook, she cultivates an unlikely friendship with a lowly, humble clerk, one Mr. Gill, who by the way happens to have the same lovely eyes as McGillvary, and has a knack for bringing forth her humility and honor.
I read this first in the series in almost in one sitting… well after midnight in fact. I must confess that the amazing hanging-off-the-cliff-by-my-fingernails-ending compelled me to search through THAT stack of books from Laurel Ann again, find and continue on with So Lovely A Chase, Book Two. Fortuitous I had it on hand, indeed!
Laura Hile humanizes Elizabeth’s plight without making her some ridiculous martyr. She maintains Elizabeth’s general haughty appearance and pretensions but delves deeper into the woman, allowing us further insight. Might she be Austen’s female Mr. Darcy in the midst of redemption? Hile is respectful of Austen’s original characters all the while making them and this story all her own. So Rough A Course was enjoyable from beginning to the last page of the third book. This treasure should be read sooner than later. My apologies to the author, in allowing my own prejudice against this Elizabeth to suspend my reading (and enjoyment) of her novel for so long.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 1: So Rough a Course, by Laura Hile
Wytherngate Press (2009)
Trade paperback (220) pages
Grand Giveaway of Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story
Enter a chance to win one of three (3) copies of Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story Book 1 – So Rough a Course, by Laura Hile, or one (1) full set of the trilogy which also includes Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story Book 2 – So Lively a Chase and Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story Book 3 – The Lady Must Decide, by asking Laura a question about her series or by sharing your reaction to any of the three reviews posted during our month-long author event each Saturday in May. Entrants will qualify for a chance at the drawing of one (1) copy of book one, or one (1) each of the entire set. Both print editions and ebooks are available. Contest ends at 11:59 Wednesday May 30th, 2012. Winners announced on Thursday, May 31st, 2012. Shipment internationally. Good luck!
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