How differently would Pride and Prejudice have proceeded if Miss Elizabeth Bennet had not overheard Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s insulting remarks during the Meryton assembly? Differently? Yes, very-very differently according to this debut author’s totally diverting and brilliant re-imagining of Jane Austen’s timeless romance.
Starting at page one and continuing all the way to page 457 (rather lengthy for a work of this nature), it never falls off or fails to delight at any point or on any page. So, if you love Elizabeth and Darcy, please read on…..
Two years in the writing, and perhaps more in research, validate the author’s mastery of the Regency period, especially her intimate portrayals of Elizabeth and Darcy, clear down to the least significant character. I am astonished at how the author totally re-charts the course of Miss Austen’s most famous story, yet manages to respectfully maintain and indeed significantly expand upon the expected attributes of its most important personalities. Just about every Austen character makes an appearance and I love the way the author chooses to highlight Miss Anne de Bourgh, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, Miss Caroline Bingley, and Miss Georgiana Darcy. Just name ANY other character from P&P; they’re all in there in some capacity.
The story centers on Netherfield, Meryton, and Longbourne with a brief Sojourn to London. That would seem restrictive for a lengthy novel but this plot device allows the author to deftly focus on the complex and ever-evolving emotional relationship between the heroine and hero. With the “prejudice” portion removed, the encounters between Miss Bennet and Mr. Darcy begin with initial wariness but grow gradually to respect, regard, affection, and ultimately love. The angst generated over this two-steps-forward-one-step-back romance is the foundation that makes this story so irresistibly seductive.
Putting aside my blathering plaudits, how better to recommend this book than to read samples of the author’s delicate wit? Darcy and Elizabeth meet by chance on their outings as they witness a beautiful sunrise. The incongruity is priceless as Miss Bennet admires nature but Mr. Darcy admires only her, yet cannot gain her regard.
“Look, Mr. Darcy. Is the sight before you not a fair prospect? I do not know how to bear it sometimes, to gaze upon such beauty and not be able to ever hold it, to be limited to just looking. It seems a hardship.” “Yes,” Mr. Darcy said, looking at Elizabeth, the sunlight glinting off her hair, and her face flushed from exertion. “I believe I understand how you feel.” (145)
Here is a rousing verbal joust between two strong personalities as Darcy’s insistence on teaching Elizabeth how to ride disguises enormous romantic implications:
“I taught Georgiana.” Darcy replied. Elizabeth shook her head. “I do not feel safe on a horse.” “you will be safe with me,” Darcy said. “How many ways must I refuse before you relent?” Elizabeth laughed. “How many times must I offer before you accept?” Darcy countered with a smile. “It is not in me to back down, Miss Bennet. Once I have set my course, I persist. “Mr. Darcy, it is my course you are setting, not your own.” Elizabeth replied.” (221)
I laughed over this classic regency eaves-dropping moment as Mr. Darcy leaves Elizabeth’s sick bed following a supposed private attempt to confess his love for her:
Darcy backed silently to the door where he would leave, his eyes never leaving the woman he hoped to make his wife. Upon reaching the door, he opened it, only to find that Jane, Bingley, Anne and the colonel were all pressed up against it. Only the colonel actually fell. (276)
I must make mention of some threads not “pulled” but “woven in” by the author that may raise both curiosity and doubt: Mr. Collins attempting to compromise Elizabeth Bennet? Miss Caroline Bingley mentally unsound? Elizabeth Bennet collapsing in the middle of the Netherfield ball? Mr. Wickham extorting Mr. Darcy? Mr. Bennet’s almost impossible courtship demands on Darcy and Elizabeth? Mr. Bingley’s secret sister? Mr. Collins’s entail invalid? As I initially read these threads, I thought “That’s far-fetched.” No worries whatsoever, because the author neatly and plausibly explains each of them in a very convincing and satisfactory manner which makes the entire book breathlessly unpredictable.
The conclusion comes abruptly and would be a disappointment for most readers if a sequel was not forthcoming. It is! This reviewer keeps top-five lists of his very favorite works from a variety of genres and this one has easily parked itself in my top 5 list for favorite regency romances which puts it in with some distinguished titles indeed. That upcoming sequel, Constant as the Sun, can’t get into my hands quickly enough!
5 out of 5 Stars
One Thread pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy (Volume 1), By Diana J. Oaks
Trade paperback (456) pages
Cover image courtesy ©Diana J. Oaks 2012; text ©Jeffrey Ward 2013, Austenprose.com