From the desk of Debbie Brown:
Everybody familiar with the classic story of Pride and Prejudice knows that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy don’t communicate to each other with total honestly until their meeting at Hunsford during his (horrible) marriage proposal, which he continues in his letter the following day. But what if circumstances lead them to do so much earlier in their relationship? That’s the premise for Two More Days at Netherfield, a Pride and Prejudice variation by Heather Moll.
While Jane Bennet is ill at Netherfield and Elizabeth is there to nurse her, early changes lay the foundation for those extra two days. First, Elizabeth learns Darcy actually admires her. Then, Darcy discovers Elizabeth overheard his insult at the Meryton assembly. His initial apology is half-hearted at best, and Elizabeth calls him on it, adding, “[Y]ou have been disagreeable and conceited from the moment of your arrival in Hertfordshire!” Interestingly, the conversation does not deteriorate. Darcy, recognizing he’s in the wrong, offers a more sincere apology.
“[N]ow that Mr Darcy had offered an acceptable apology, she could tolerate his company a little better.” Ergo, Elizabeth isn’t as disturbed when her mother refuses to send the Bennet carriage, and the sisters remain there two more days rather than borrowing Mr. Bingley’s and returning to Longbourn.
Events over these two days lead to a lot of self-examination by both Darcy and Elizabeth. He comes to recognizes that his behavior IS haughty and unmannerly, while she realizes that she forms judgments too quickly and harshly.
Darcy even warns Elizabeth about Mr. Wickham and describes his dishonorable character, providing details regarding his father’s Will and Wickham’s acceptance of money in lieu of the church living. In conversing about their respective families, Elizabeth admits embarrassment over the behavior of her mother, father, and sisters. Darcy’s sympathetic but blunt response makes her comprehend more fully how their actions could adversely affect her own reputation. Darcy observes Elizabeth and Jane working on charity baskets for their father’s tenants; she notes how conscientiously he approaches his duties as Master of Pemberley. To cap things off, Darcy catches a brief glimpse of Jane’s heartfelt response to Bingley.
By the time the Bennet sisters return to Longbourn, Darcy, and Elizabeth have become close friends. “He would be a better man, he decided, a less selfish man, for having befriended Elizabeth Bennet. In their short time together in the same house, she had reminded him what it was to be a gentleman with a greater consideration towards the feelings of others.”
Consequently, every obstacle that the original Pride and Prejudice doesn’t address until the Hunsford proposal and during their interactions at Rosings gets brushed away quite early. Also, Elizabeth has gotten a clear glimpse of the improved Darcy that Jane Austen didn’t introduce until their meeting months later at Pemberley. Soon, Darcy even decides to propose to Elizabeth the day after the Netherfield ball. What could go wrong?
Never underestimate Mr. Wickham’s ability to wreak havoc! His machinations separate the lovelorn couple and send the rest of the book down a decidedly different path. The combination of Caroline Bingley’s scheming and Mr. Bingley’s poor handwriting keeps Darcy and Elizabeth apart and miserable during much of this entertaining story.
The conversations between Darcy and Elizabeth are pitch-perfect. All the characters are well-defined. Georgiana is depicted as suffering from paralyzing self-doubt, and a gathering of the dysfunctional Fitzwilliam family at Pemberley during the holiday season doesn’t help. Mr. Wickham’s unusual storyline in Hertfordshire is a standout. Caroline gets satisfying verbal smackdowns, first by Elizabeth and then by Darcy. Once again, it’s Lady Catherine who unwittingly gives Darcy hope and sends him back to Hertfordshire, though the information she provides is quite different than in canon. The whole story is unpredictable and full of angst, keeping the reader on edge and eagerly turning pages.
The book, as wonderful as it is, would benefit from additional pruning. Too often, the author narrates Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s thoughts when their dialogue and actions provide sufficient information. Some scenes are described first from Darcy’s point of view and then repeated from Elizabeth’s. Their thoughts also get repetitive at times, creating additional drag. The HEA (Happily Ever After) extends longer than necessary. Some side stories don’t resolve and perhaps could be eliminated. Also, readers should be aware there are three scenes with Mature Adult content—some of which seem irrelevant to me.
Despite those flaws, Two More Days at Netherfield is well worth your time if you enjoy an unusual plotline, crackling dialogue, a bunch of angst, sizzling romance, and well-drawn characters.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll
Quills & Quartos Publishing (January 27, 2020)
Trade paperback & eBook (404) pages
Cover image courtesy of Quills & Quartos Publishing © 2020; Text Debbie Brown © 2020, Austenprose.com