From the desk of Christina Boyd:
In this wild, wild west of the new publishing world, we are seeing more books being published and through many different avenues. No longer are traditional publishers the only way to get a book into the hands of readers as there are smaller independent presses, hybrid publishers and many self-publishing resources. In the past, I have been an unabashed on-line Jane Austen fan fiction reader. During the height of my on-line Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) addiction, I might have followed anywhere from 10 to 15 works-in-progress (WIPs) at various on-line sites. Anything from continuations (a story that continues after the original novel ends), alternative universe (a story when the author deviates from the original canon and creates events to effect a different action) and even crossovers (a fan fiction integrating characters and places from another story source). But I must confess, as many of these on-line authors have taken their stories to the next step and even stepped away from posting their new works on-line, I too have transferred my reading of on-line fan fiction to my e-reader by purchasing the published works and even adding the bound books to my collection.
One rainy day in December, I found myself reading in my pajamas all day author Joana Starnes’ newly released “The Falmouth Connection”. I was instantly engaged by the unexpected, surprisingly smart, and innovative handling of “Pride and Prejudice” in a very alternate universe where Elizabeth becomes an heiress to a fine fortune. Therefore, when Laurel Ann, our blogmistress, asked if I would be interested in reading Starnes “The Second Chance: A ‘Pride & Prejudice – ‘Sense & Sensibility Variation’ ” for review, how could I not jump at the chance!
“The Second Chance”, Joana Starnes’ second crossover novel of “Pride and Prejudice” with soupçons of “Sense and Sensibility”, commences with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy still at odds at Netherfield but from there on, the story is all new. Albeit Darcy forbids himself to court Elizabeth because of her comparatively lower station in life and his obligations and expectations of his family, he cannot but be enamored by her verve and fine eyes. Alas when Mr. Bennet falls dangerously ill, he cannot abstain from coming to her aid. Not only does he send his own physician to care for the failing Mr. Bennet but makes secret arrangements to care for Elizabeth and her family should the worst happen and the girls lose their home to the heir apparent, Mr. Collins, an odious, groveling cousin. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth that Darcy has done even more than this one kindness of his own physician, her negative opinion of him does begin to change for the better. “He did not want her gratitude! ‘What is it that you want, then?’ The answer was simple and it came to him in a moment, readily accepted as the absolute truth. He did not want her gratitude. He wanted her love. Ah, but to what purpose? That was the material point!” But when the worst falls on Longbourn, Elizabeth soon finds herself removed to a lovely manor house in Devonshire.
Under the guise of an inheritance from one of Mr. Bennet’s old schoolmates, Darcy has gifted the Bennets his own Farringdon Lodge in Devonshire – and that is where we meet our “Sense and Sensibility” favorites: the Dashwoods, Mrs. Jennings, the Middletons, Edward Ferrars, and Colonel Brandon. (Do I unveil too much by appending that neither Jane nor Mary Bennet quit Hertfordshire because Fate has smiled on them at Longbourn in other ancillary plots?) Meanwhile, amidst the downs of Devonshire, romance and friendships blossom. I adored it so realizing Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Jennings were now to be fast friends bent on making good matches for all the girls. “ ‘Well, it appears that you have missed your chance, my dear,’ Mrs. Jennings said to Elizabeth one morning, nodding significantly in the direction of Colonel Brandon, who was sitting away from the rest of the party in earnest conversation with Marianne.”
Whilst Elizabeth begins life anew in her Devonshire environs, Darcy, try as he must, cannot purge her from his thoughts. “She had been with him everywhere he went. She had been in the house in Berkeley Square, smiling at him from across the long mahogany table; she had walks through the halls at Pemberley at his side; leaned over his shoulder in the quiet hours at his desk in his study and cut his sleep and his peace with dreams of her, day and night!” Though he seems resolute to take comfort knowing she is safely situated at Farringdon Lodge, when he hears from Colonel Fitzwilliam another Colonel might be wooing his Elizabeth, he can only act as his heart demands…and see her for himself. But is he too late? Was the friendship they had only begun at Longbourn enough of a start? And what happens if she should discover the truth of his altruistic bequest?
Through a comedy of errors, Darcy and Elizabeth miss each other on separate occasions and when they do meet again, there is much frustration (for the reader, too) and share of vexation delaying the inevitable happily ever after that we wholly expect. Nay, demand. “How was he to tell her that he loved her and ask her to trust him with her hand and heart if she would not talk to him? If she could even bear to look at him?”
All the while reading “The Second Chance”, I had a niggling sensation that I had read this before. After a quick confirmation from the author via Facebook Messenger, it turns out Starnes had written it nearly ten years ago as “Steady to His Purpose”! It was a crossover favorite of mine when I discovered it at Derbyshire Writer’s Guild eight years ago and is thus once again. Note: this 2014 published version remains true to its original plot however, the structure is a bit varied and a couple new chapters have been added.
“The Second Chance” is certainly more of re-imagining where “Pride and Prejudice” characters meet up with “Sense and Sensibility” set partly in Devonshire. To me, the “Sense and Sensibility” characters are only tertiary forces to driving the Darcy & Elizabeth story forward. I was not overly invested in any of those side stories but the narrative was so sound, it was of little consequence to my overall enjoyment. Though the book cover seems amateurish compared to others on the bookseller-mart these days — and that may have been the only reason for me to have not read this when it was first released October 2014 — I look forward to reading more from this author. Blessedly, Joana Starnes writes our beloved characters much as we always envisage though in entirely fresh scenarios. She masterfully sprinkles some of Austen’s well-known phrases throughout even reassigning dialog to other characters to deliver. But the mingling of favorites from “Pride and Prejudice” with “Sense and Sensibility”, giving them new storylines to traverse, contriving a new pairing or two, speeding up the inevitable for some whilst delaying our satisfaction for others, made “The Second Chance” an engrossing and inventive read. Like with all my favorites, not only do I have this on my e-reader but have also added it to my book room as “I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.” It’s a must a read in 2015. Sooner than later.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
The Second Chance: A Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility Variation, by Joana Starnes
Trade paperback & eBook (370) pages
Cover image courtesy of Joana Starnes © 2014; text Christina Boyd © 2015, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”