From the desk of Monica Perry:
Readers of Pride and Prejudice retellings know that sometimes it’s a great thing when Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet gets interrupted. It isn’t his best moment and perhaps if it’s averted, the universe will realign in his favor, giving him time to learn of her disdain for him and correct his behavior before she hands him his heart on a stick. In Victoria Kincaid’s Pride and Proposals, Darcy doesn’t get the chance to propose, yet he still has his heart broken, as he arrives at the parsonage just in time to learn his lady love just got engaged to his best friend and cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. What can he do? Richard is kind and honorable, and they seem to be very happy. If Darcy can’t have her, she could do far worse in a spouse. Can he risk embarrassing himself and harming his relationship with Richard by admitting his feelings? Does she truly love Richard or is she marrying for convenience? Colonel Fitzwilliam is such a beloved personage in Pride and Prejudice stories; in a world without Mr. Darcy, he and Elizabeth could be quite well- suited for each other. I wanted to know if Ms. Kincaid could possibly get Darcy and Elizabeth to a happy ending without breaking Richard’s heart in the process.
Unwilling to rock the boat, Darcy is forced to swallow his emotions and pretend to be happy for the couple. His life is further complicated when his sister Georgiana and Elizabeth form a close friendship in London, throwing them into each other’s company frequently. Richard knows that Elizabeth doesn’t like Darcy; naturally, he wants his best friend and his betrothed to like each other and seeks to improve her opinion.
Darcy’s torn – does he stay and continue to suffer in silence and pray he doesn’t betray his feelings, or does he avoid her and escape as far away as he can get? Unrequited love can be masochistic and as much as it torments him to be around her, he craves it, and hates himself for it. While traveling abroad with Georgiana, Elizabeth and Richard’s relationship ends and she finds herself with an ususual sort of independence. Richard is no longer in the picture and his family never supported his relationship with Elizabeth; other than Georgiana and some of Richard’s friends that still call on her occasionally, she has few friends and feels very lonely in London. Darcy doesn’t want to see her return to Hertfordshire and begins spending more time with her, being the friend she needs and standing up for her to the Fitzwilliams. Their interactions are not always placid and Elizabeth is utterly confused about her feelings for him and why he’s always ruffling her feathers. Darcy is convinced he can never measure up to Richard in Elizabeth’s heart and they both harbor a lot of guilt. Darcy isn’t her only admirer in town, and as gentlemen begin sniffing around, he’s desperate to win her before he loses her again to another man. Will he get his proposal right this time?
I felt so bad for Darcy throughout. So much anguish and awkwardness; being in love and feeling forever relegated to the “friend zone”! There are only so many ways a love triangle can be resolved –no one wishes to see characters they love jilted or killed off, and I’ve tried not to spoil the solution for anyone. Some might be upset at the route Ms. Kincaid chose; while I thought it was unfortunate, it was also realistic enough. Darcy and Elizabeth do eventually find their way to happiness with Richard’s blessing.
There was one aspect of the story I was skeptical about, regarding the length of Elizabeth and Richard’s engagement. I can speculate why the author wrote it that way but I didn’t find Elizabeth’s reasoning particularly plausible. As amiable as Richard is, it seemed unlikely to me that he would’ve gone along with it so easily. For those who may be wary of such things, there are no mature scenes and no infidelity. Elizabeth does knowingly flaunt propriety at times, but that didn’t bother me much under the circumstances. It isn’t integral to the plot, but I’d have liked to hear a little about the Darcys’ travels, too.
I really enjoyed this poignant story of love and loss, loyalty, friendship and passion. The relationships among Darcy, Elizabeth and Richard are heartwarming, and the angst was offset by an underlying dry sense of humor that kept it from being too overwhelming.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Pride and Proposals: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Victoria Kincaid
Victoria Kincaid (2015)
Trade paperback and eBook (210) pages
Book cover image courtesy of Victoria Kincaid © 2015; text Monica Perry © 2015, Austenprose.com
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