Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 3: The Lady Must Decide, by Laura Hile – A Review and Giveaway

Mercy's Embrace, Elizabeth Elliot's Story, Book 3: The Lady Must Decide (2012)Review by Christina Boyd

There is something so satisfying about reading the third book in a trilogy. We have become personally entrenched in the characters and we know that important events will be resolved soon.  Book 3, The Lady Must Decide, of author Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace series does not disappoint; resolving some plot lines and leaving others open for possibilities.

In this delightful continuation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, our heroine Miss Elizabeth Elliot realizes the time has come for her to forge her own future.  With exceedingly shameful reminders of her father’s abandonment, and her wretched dependence on the generosity and hospitality of her sister Anne and Captain Wentworth, she knows the only way to survive is to marry.  And marry well.  But the dilemma is who?  Dare she follow her heart?  Or accept a loveless marriage of convenience?

Book 2, So Lively A Chase, left us dangling, breathlessly… all anticipation as to how Elizabeth would behave once she learned Patrick McGillvary’s true identity.  Blessedly, this novel opens without missing a beat.   “Look again dearest,” he said, very low.  She was very near to the truth now.  He saw her cheeks go pale.” p.12.

Not only does Elizabeth suffer from society’s gossips and her reduced circumstances, now she keenly feels the betrayal of her closest friend.  Meanwhile, Sir Walter and Lady Russell’s brash and mysterious escape from his creditors seems to unravel out of control; I wondered if the usually strong-willed and practical Lady Russell would ever come to her senses!  In addition, her brother-in-law, Charles Musgrove becomes exceedingly disgruntled with his peevish wife Mary while increasingly captivated by the neighbor’s kindly and attentive spinster sister.  It’s no wonder with all the failings and heartache from the men in her life that Elizabeth might feel compelled to settle. “‘Be grateful for what you have, Mary,’ Elizabeth said roughly.  ‘Though you do not think it much, you have a home and a family.  You have a future as mistress of Uppercross.  That is something, even if your husband is a disappointment.  I believe most husbands are.’” p. 48.

Although there is a happy and satisfying resolution in this third book, some might argue Hile left much unanswered… which led me to surmise that a fourth book must be in the making.  And lo… after a brief Facebook tete-a-tete, the authoress declared she is working on another installment. That said, this has been an incredible, satisfying series!  Who would ever have believed Jane Austen’s pretentious, vain, selfish, and thoughtless Elizabeth Elliot would be a heroine of her own story?  It is a rare and truly gifted writer indeed who can transform such a universally despised character to one so beloved and passionately championed. With Hile’s absolute understanding of Austen’s masterpiece, respectful interpretation of original characters, strong plots and subplots, I can only imagine, dear Jane could not but regard this series the ultimate compliment to her Persuasion.

At a time when all the new book hullabaloo is about E.L. James’ uber-sensationalized Fifty Shades of Grey, you may be looking for a great summer read that won’t make you blush at every page. I highly extol the virtues of Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace series.  It should be read sooner, then later.  That is of course, unless you are into delayed gratification.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 3: The Lady Must Decide, by Laura Hile
Wytherngate Press (2010)
Trade paperback (208) pages
ISBN: 978-0972852999
NOOK: 2940013802605
Kindle: B0043M6LW2

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!

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

67 thoughts on “Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 3: The Lady Must Decide, by Laura Hile – A Review and Giveaway

  1. I have to say reading Jane Austen fan fiction has become one of the new great loves of my life! I love a well written story based on JA’s characters! Do you think Jane Austen would be thrilled down to her toes to know she had inspired such a following?!

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    • I’m late to the party today! Sorry!

      Would Jane be thrilled, you ask.

      I don’t know, AP. “Results may vary” seems to be the catchphrase when it comes to derivative fiction. I’d like to think Jane would enjoy Mercy’s Embrace—and Christina has made me blush with her praise—but maybe not? :)

      Truth to tell, Jane might not appreciate that I “borrowed” her characters. I ask myself how I would feel if someone did the same with my original people. “It depends…” is how I would respond.

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, AP!

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  2. Wonderful review! And it’s completely accurate. I cannot wait for books 4 and 5. Write, Laura! Write!

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    • Elizabeth was someone I wondered about while working on a fan fiction story, sammie (Love Suffers Long and is Kind with Austen writer Susan Kaye). She is so arrogant and stiff in her opinions, but at the end of Persuasion is almost pathetic. Penelope Clay, a woman she counted as a friend, has betrayed her for William Elliot, the man she hoped to marry. Elizabeth is left isolated with her father, having nothing but spinsterhood to look forward to.

      I noticed, too, that Elizabeth was in favor of leaving Kellynch Hall for Bath, which meant she longed for change. If the chance for happiness—or perceived happiness—came her way, would she defy her father? I decided to find out.

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  3. I find that we learn about elizabeth adventure and search for a husband intriguing. What made you decide to write about her?

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    • Hi Patricia!

      Why write Elizabeth Elliot? Part of the reason is because no one else has! :) (The field is wide open! No competition!)

      I’m also writing what I enjoy. I like escapist fiction, the sweep-me-away kind of reading that’s a delight. Having a heroine who is so opinionated and so outspoken makes for a lovely adventure. She’s also against-the-wall desperate, which means her choices aren’t always logical. And I do love an element of reformation. But not too much. She’s still Elizabeth at the end, still stubborn and a force to be reckoned with if upset. But she’s wiser and kinder.

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  4. I have really become interested in this series as I follow your reviews. As I have said before I did not like the character of Elizabeth Elliot but am now quite anxious to find out her story.

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    • Hats off to Christina for the way she’s written the reviews, and not only because they’re so favorable! (Laura has the grace to blush as she types this.)

      The tricky part is avoiding spoilers, and with this series there’s so much going on that it’s almost impossible not to spill the beans. But Christina has managed it splendidly. It’s like the poor girl has been dancing through a mine field! Brava, Christiina!

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  5. How do you decide which characters to focus on in Elizabeth’s story? Is is easier say to develope a plot line with Charles Musgrove than with Captain Wentworth?

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    • Sally, the trouble with Captain Wentworth is that my dearest friend, Susan Kaye, writes him so splendidly. By comparison, I am (to quote a Regency phrase) “cow-handed,” because I don’t “get” him.

      Plus, Captain Wentworth carries heavy emotional baggage—readers have high expectations, you know? What if I don’t deliver? (Happily-ever-after makes for an emotionally satisfying ending, but for a continuation story it’s boring. Unless one resorts to making sex the primary driver of the plot. Ha. With me, this ain’t never going to happen!)

      Whereas with Elizabeth Elliot, who cares? Everybody hates her already, and while she’s not the most brilliant marketing choice, I am free! Charles Musgrove is much the same. He’s the good-natured fellow who loved Anne and, thinking her younger sister would be similar, settled for Mary. My sympathy for him made him easy to write.

      So I suppose fear of readers’ expectations factored into my choice.

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  6. so pleased for Laura to receive this supportive review!
    from the opening, “There is something so satisfying about reading the third book in a trilogy.” to concluding, ” It should be read sooner, then later.”, the flow encourages us to make the current trilogy foundational in our JA libraries. As one of those readers, I am thoroughly convinced !
    and with a nod to the next installment, my anticipation is spiked !

    TY, Christina! well done!

    and Laura? Keep calm and write on…
    We’re waaaaiiting…!

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    • Faith hope, each week you give encouragement! Thank you.

      I have no choice but to write this summer. Fellow writer Robin Helm will be daily on my case, and she has the whip hand!

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  7. Christina: This is third time you’ve dangled that lollipop in front of us in the form of another superlative review. I’m going to read all three, free or not. What else could the incurable romantic do ??

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    • Jeffrey, you are too kind.

      If you don’t win, you’ll have one day—May 31st—to purchase Mercy’s Embrace on sale. Wytherngate Press (only) is selling print books at $11 each (plus shipping). Ebooks (Kindle, Nook, and whatever Apple books are called, i-Books?) are $4.99.

      But, hey, you could win them all! Thanks for your interest.

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  8. Sounds most intriguing. Would love to read them. And of course would love to win! Thanks for all the great posts, views and comments!

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  9. After reading the reviews, I’m so fascinated to get my hands on this series! I can’t imagine a better alternative to the crappy summer novels that are hitting shelves right now. I do so hope the author decides on another installment, but in the meantime, I’ll be scouting about for the Mercy’s Embrace #1!

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    • When I find a novel I love, it’s like I’ve made a friend. I then hunt up all the books I can find by that author. Readers are an incredibly loyal group of people. Thanks for the kind words!

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  10. I am currently listening to Juliet Stevenson read Persuasion and am paying particular attention every mention of Elizabeth because of the review of the first book. It made me very curious to read it, and I have not read the subsequent reviews because I do not want to spoil the plot of the previous ones.

    At one point in P, Elizabeth is described as “repulsive.” Laura must be a genius to have made her sympathetic and a heroine.

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    • You’ve got that right! Elizabeth in Persuasion is absolutely repulsive.

      And you are kind to think I’m a genius, Lynn! But I wonder if Jane is using what we would consider to be the older definition for repulsive? “Tend to repel or reject: cold, forbidding.”

      Elizabeth does push people away, using discourtesy, coldness, and denial. A practice which is, to our modern tastes, repulsive (“arousing aversion or disgust”)

      Thanks for entering the giveaway. Not many days until Laurel Ann draws the winners! :)

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    • Lynn, as you listen to Persuasion, watch how Elizabeth’s attitude toward the so-ineligible Captain Wentworth changes.

      Mr Elliot, whom she had counted a suitor, has shifted his attention to Anne. So when Elizabeth hands round the invitations for her father’s card party, she is mindful to give one to the good Captain, her sister’s former suitor. (Take that, Anne!) Of course she’d like to score one on her sister. But also, she’s obviously decided that the newly-moneyed Wentworth is not so bad.

      A shift like this is proof that the fine Miss Elliot is not as rigid in her opinions as she supposes! I took this and ran with it! :)

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  11. I have the trilogy on my wish list. MERCY’S EMBRACE appeals far more than FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ever could. No contest!!

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  12. Does Elizabeth ever become humble enough or ‘aware’ enough to actually appreciate her sister Anne? or to apologize to Anne for her condescending and unkind treatment of her? Or does she remain self satisfied that she is always in the right?
    I am really interested in winning the series and hope – no, make that expect – to win it for my birthday! So keep me in the loop for the drawing!

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    • Jan, I’m trying to recall. (Pathetic that I should forget what I wrote, but it happens …) I don’t think Elizabeth actually apologizes, though she sees she has misjudged her sister somewhat. What we do see is Elizabeth coming to Anne’s defense, and having new-found consideration for her.

      But not for Captain Wentworth—the dislike is mutual and he’s not afraid to let it be known. Ha!

      At the end of Mercy’s Embrace Anne is still very guarded with her father and sister—and with good reason! —so anything like a friendship is a long way off. However, I have found that an element that unites feuding woman is the mutual hatred of a man. So I suppose the smooth-talking William Elliot could be key in their eventual reconciliation!

      Thanks for the questions, Jan. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: It is a pleasure to write for the intelligent, thinking reader!

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  13. You all must forgive my poor attempt at poking fun at “Fifty Shades” and its hero, Christian Grey by paraphrasing one of his favorite catch phrases”Laters, baby” or “Sooners than laters, baby.” But truly this is a read that I hope your prejudice against Elizabeth Elliot does not hold you from reading this series… “Sooners than laters…” ;) ;) Well done and keep writing, Ms.Hile!!Glad you enjoyed my review– it was an easy task being such a terrific series.

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    • Ha, Christina, I adore your snarky swipe at 50 Shades! Thank you! As you know by now, I have little love for the “sex-as-plot” style of writing.

      Mr Darcy said, “Every savage can dance.”

      Well, every savage can do something else, too. Doesn’t mean I wish to open the bedroom door and watch!

      Okay, this is quite enough from me on this subject!

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    • No way Christina! Some of the best Austen fan-fic I’ve ever read featured Miss Austen’s “bad girls.” Redemption is one of the most wonderful and satisfying of basic human behaviors or emotions. I’m looking forward to seeing it on my kindle…one way or the other.

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  14. Again a great review letting us know enough to want to read it, yet not spoiling anything. Wonderful!
    I too, have found it funny, how Elizabeth turnes her attention (or tries to) towards Capt. Wentworth at the end of the novel. Clearly money and the word Captain before the name do make a difference ;) :D.

    Was one of the 3 books “easier” to write then the others? Or harder?

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    • The hardest thing to write? You’ll laugh, Katrin. Hands-down, it was the ending!

      I mean it. Cliffhangers are no problem for me—as you’ll see if you read these books—but I have little experience with an ending. They’re anything but easy! :)

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      • I have never written a longer story, but I can imagine, that writing an ending can be quite hard – knowing that that´s the END, finito. And having to live with the fact, that all the suggestions, or further story plots or twists that could come to mind afterwards have to be left, other then with a cliffhanger.

        Thanks for your quick answer, Laura! :) I´m looking forward to reading your series and reading what ending you came (or come, as it´s not yet finished) up with.

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        • Katrin, when I sent that third manuscript off to the publisher, I remember the sweet relief. And also this uber-responsible thought: “Good. Now I can die.” Ha!

          I worked over the outline today, and it looks like my suspicions were correct: I have too much story for just one book (like that’s a surprise?). Each one will be a stand-alone, in that the major story arc will resolve. Those pesky secondary story lines—the “hanging threads” from the first three—will continue through both.

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  15. I have greatly enjoyed the reviews! I have been on a Persuasion kick this year…first audio, then a month or so later the hardback, then the annotated version…and I SHALL be reading Mercy’s Embrace this summer! Imagine that, a summer read that I don’t feel compelled to hide the cover!!! Thank you Christina for the intriguing reviews and thank you, Laura, for the story!

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    • Thanks, June, for the kind words about the story … and the book covers.

      I must say, in my house that very PINK first volume is like a test of manhood or something! Only a truly secure romance-loving male dares to be seen reading it.

      My eldest son bailed and bought the ebook edition to read on his phone! :)

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  16. I just can’t wrap my mind around Elizabeth living with the Wentworth’s. So trying to comprehend how this works and how Anne tolerates her being in her home just when it seemed like she had escaped. Perhaps I’ll be more understanding and tolerant myself after reading more about her.

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    • Poor Anne would agree with you wholeheartedly, Amanda. She can’t wrap her head around having Elizabeth underfoot any more than you can.

      However, as Captain Wentworth reminds her, it’s her house, not Elizabeth’s. Anne’s kingdom, Anne’s rules. And if Elizabeth doesn’t like it, there’s the door! Hard to be Anne in such a circumstance. But so much harder to be the humbled Elizabeth!

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  17. After reading these reviews, I had to go back and read Persuasion again. Elizabeth is almost a caricature, as is her father… It must have been fun to flesh her out. She couldnt possibly be as shallow as she seems!

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    • Hi Jennifer. Yes, Elizabeth was background noise in Persuasion, serving to be a contrast to Anne. And yet Jane left tidbits lying around that I eagerly took up and examined for potential. Any time a beautiful, arrogant woman has her conscience trouble her—that was mentioned once, as an aside—I pay attention.

      I did, however, make Elizabeth more intelligent than Jane intended. My fault, I couldn’t write a stupid heroine. Well, except for Mary …

      Thanks for your interest in Mercy’s Embrace!

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  18. PERSUASION is my favorite Austen book. These books sound fascinating, and I have them all on my wish list. I understand your feeling of freedom in taking Elizabeth on as a subject for your novels, but I still think it was most courageous of you-finding realistic ways to humble and humanize her and still leave her basic character intact is a mind-boggling task! I’m looking forward to reading them.

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    • Thanks for the props, Lauren.

      The thing about Elizabeth Elliot is … she and I are very alike. We are! Down deep, in my heart of hearts, I am fond of my own opinions and am way too quick to judge. And I tend to snub people who are presumptuous, and I don’t put up with jerks. And if I were half as beautiful as Elizabeth, I might get away with such arrogance! But alas, she and I are not as smart as we think … :)

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  19. Oh my goodness!!! I’m really excited about hearing this series will continue with another book! And I saw mention that one of the posters said books “4 AND 5”!!?! Is that TRUE!??! To have a 5th installment planned? I love it when a great series continues and doesn’t leave you with the huge question of: “What next?” Can’t wait to get my hands on these books! ;)

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    • Steph, lovely to meet you! As featured author, I’m a guest this month. But I speak for all when I say, welcome! Please do return and make yourself at home. You are among friends here.

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  20. Hi, Laura! I had no idea that you had written this series and I will have to read them ASAP. I LOVE Jane Austen books. I read Pride & Prejudice at least once a year and perhaps the same for Emma and Sense & Sensibility. I love to analyze the characters and plots endlessly…. Anyway, how fascinating that you wrote a series on Elizabeth Elliott, who really seems so like a wicked stepsister or something in the original Persuasion, but it sounds like you were able to craft a more complicated character in your series. LOVE IT!

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    • Hi, Marci!

      Ah, a kindred spirit! I dearly love analyzing people. Book plots are the better place for my hobby, for I can make many Emma-like errors when using real people. Although … it comes in handy for teaching middle school.

      Thanks for your enthusiasm. Perhaps you’ll win the grand prize?

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    • You know, Lou, I haven’t. I’ve introduced into the curriculum Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows —for some this is their first exposure to how powerful good writing can be— and also Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain. I’ll have to think about Austen. Perhaps for my high school creative writing class?

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      • Johnny Tremain! I remember reading that in school – 35 years ago. I still can’t see the word silversmith without thinking of Johhny’s damaged hand.

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  21. Late to the party, of course, but I agree with every word of this review–I rank the Mercy’s Embrace series as the top of the Austen-inspired mountain, and I’m thrilled to hear a 4th book is in the making. What a treat that will be.

    No need to enter me in the contest as I have all three of Laura’s books.

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  22. WOW! After reading the quote from Elizabeth to Mary stating that she should not take her situation in life for granted it makes me think that maybe Elizabeth has finally seen the light.

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  23. I’m so excited about reading this series! I did something similar with my novel “Dracula My Love”–that is, I re-imagined Dracula, (created as a villain by Bram Stoker) as a charismatic and sympathetic hero. Laura, I’d love to know what inspired you to write the first book in this series–and to re-imagine Elizabeth as a heroine!

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    • Syrie, I began writing the “Other Elizabeth” simply because of the challenge.

      At that time, Austen fiction was centered around Pride and Prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, I love happily ever after. But why, I wondered, did Austen readers want a story to which they knew the ending? So I chose this Elizabeth —who is arrogant and outspoken and desperate—set in a story they couldn’t predict. Would she follow her heart? Or would she chose to be safe?

      Thanks for entering the giveaway! Not many hours remain until Laurel Ann draws the winners!

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  24. This series sounds wonderful!! I love when a “repulsive” character can be redeemed, similar to Caroline Bingley in The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel (well, tied with P&P) and I have never liked Elizabeth. It would be wonderful to find out more about her.

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    • You’re right, Laura. There’s little to like in Persuasion’s Elizabeth Elliot, especially as she’s portrayed in the movie adaptations!

      But her desperate, almost isolated situation at the end of the book caught my attention. How would she react if a chance at happiness showed up? Real happiness, not the stiff, society triumph she’d convinced herself was best. Would she dare to step out and take a risk on love?

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